As we come to the end of Comic Relief, and in the midst of several global crises, it is time to look at what can and cannot work when businesses jump on ’cause-tied’ marketing. (A phrase I have plagiarised from the WSJ)

The Ugly

Previously, we have written about the mistakes made by those who have endeavoured to leap on the bandwagons created by ’causes’. Bing comes to mind as the most recent #fail. It did get ugly for a while on Twitter until the apology and donation made to Japan.

The Good

ClickThrough have tried to approach cause-tied marketing in a good way, by making the most of Red Nose Day and yet not tying our own contributions to those from others. Consumer influenced contributions can work for some issues e.g. some crisp manufacturers and supermarkets have tied their contribution to efforts from others, but usually for far less emotive issues – such as books, cookery, or sports equipment for schools. For those who don’t know, Red Nose Day, for many Brits, is one of the great causes, like BandAid, that we will all support in it’s quest to rid the world of poverty. Schools, companies, organisations, villages and individuals all get together to help Red Nose Day raise funds, and this year “On The Night” raised an astonishing £75million with its TV shows, phone-ins and online activity.

The Bad

This is a large category, as so many fall into the trap of trying to promote their companies whilst seemingly helping those at the heart of a cause. In fact, so many PR attempts fall into this category that it should ring a warning bell for any company when considering using a cause to promote their business.

The only way to ensure that you do not find that pitfall is to be honest and honourable when supporting a cause. Ask yourself not WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) but How Can We Help? This Ebay listing for a wetsuit being sold to raise money for Japan will undoubtedly be taken down shortly, but this is a prime example of how to do it right.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology