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March 15, 1996

Generosity Marketing

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If you need proof that generosity has become a worldwide brand, look no further than marketing. Generosity has taken over marketing like water flooding a rice paddy.
What is known as “cause marketing”—a for-profit company using its clout to promote one or more compassionate causes around the world—used to be a curiosity. Now it’s ubiquitous. What’s curious, in fact, is when a company doesn’t engage in cause marketing. Between 1990 and 2013, corporate spending on cause marketing in the United States grew from $120 million to $1.78 billion. Aflac sells a plush duck to raise money for research and treatment of childhood cancers. Brooks Brothers clothiers collects used coats for homeless programs. Pizza Hut is working in early childhood literacy. Unlike corporate philanthropy, which is tax deductible, cause marketing is a business expense like any other kind of marketing. But it creates goodwill for the company at the same time it does good for worthy causes.
We could call this kind of marketing generosity marketing. It includes every strategy a company uses to promote itself while doing social good. Is it trying to do good? Yes. Is it trying to sell a service or product? Yes. Is it trying to build its corporate image? Yes. Is it trying to keep a competitive advantage? Yes.
Classically, marketing was about features and benefits. Now it’s largely about values. My goal is to connect you to a higher purpose along with me, and then you will have greater loyalty to me. It’s still marketing, but it’s generosity marketing.

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