||Boston Accent: Brands Should Speak, But Softly
As Boston residents settled back into their daily routines, a handful of marketers were already way out in front in terms of speaking to consumers about the recent dark events.
But while John Hancock, Ahold, Adidas and Rue La La may have gotten there first, other brands should follow, Craig Bida, EVP of Cone Communications, told Marketing Daily. (Cone, which specializes in cause-related marketing, is located on Boston's Boylston Street, where the bombs went off during the marathon.)
"After a tragedy, there is now an expectation from consumers that brands should do something," he says. "Our research has shown that 73% of people now think companies should somehow respond. But it's important to tread lightly, and not be tone-deaf. The bombing had a big emotional impact, so brand response should be sensitive." (Food Web site Epicurious got blasted by its Twitter followers, for example, who let it know that suggesting Bostonians whip up some cranberry whole-grain scones to feel better was stupid and crass.)
For companies with the closest ties to either the marathon or Boston, the response was incredibly swift. Within 24 hours of the bombing, John Hancock, the event's primary sponsor, donated $1 million to start the One Fund Boston, which will aid those affected. Ahold, the Dutch parent of Stop & Shop, Boston's leading grocer, kicked in $500,000. CVS and Dunkin' Donuts ponied up $100,000 each. Within two days, the fund had reportedly taken in $10 million in donations, and race sponsor Adidas had already run out of its "Boston stands as one" tribute tee-shirts.
It makes sense, Bida says, that Boston's homegrown brands would be among the first out of the gate with efforts to help, playing a leadership role. But no matter where a brand is based, it's important to follow basic rules, he says. While consumers are skeptical of all cause-related efforts, this tragedy brought it home, with scammers using Twitter to solicit funds for fake charities and selling stolen marathon medals on eBay within hours of the bombing.
"That makes it very important to be transparent about fundraising," he says. Adidas, for example, was clear that it was giving 100% of proceeds for its tee-shirts, priced at $26.20, to the One Fund. And Boston-based Rue La La's $20 tee-shirt, which reads "Tough proud brave free Boston," is giving all net proceeds to Emergency Medicine Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It's also important to give enough money to make an impression, he points out. "If other brands are donating $100,000, and then people see you give $10,000, it's obviously going to have less impact."
Finally, he says, brands need to respond in a way that is authentic. While most businesses throughout Boston were shut down that Friday during the intense manhunt for the suspects, for example, Dunkin' Donuts stayed open in select areas to make sure cops and emergency workers had access to coffee and donuts.
"I've worked with a battery brand, giving away free flashlights during storms," Bida says. "And believe me, no one ever says, 'Why are you trying to use this storm as a promotional opportunity?’ They say, 'I needed a flashlight -- thanks!'"
But for Bida, the week’s most moving commentary came on ice, when Boston Bruin fans belted out the national anthem. Adds Bida: "That was a pretty powerful Boston moment."
(Source: Marketing Daily, 04/21/13)
What's In It For You:
I was at the IEG Sponsorship conference in Chicago when the bombs went off in Boston. Within 12-24 hours, attendees were talking and tweeting about how they thought the sponsors and the Boston Marathon property would handle their worst nightmare. While none of these brands likely thought, "Gee, how can we spin this into a money-making cause marketing campaign?", their quick-thinking, "What can we do to make a difference?" response will generate long-term good will translating into stronger brand relationships with consumers and increased sales. And that's because their instinctive response was built around 2 fundamental cause marketing strategies: Make it relevant and facilitate engagement. Relevance is where Epicurious went wrong. Make scones to feel better? Seriously? John Hancock is finance and insurance. They created the One Fund Boston because that's what they do. Relevant to their brand. And they gave people something tangible to do to help: Donate to One Fund Boston. Engagment. Adidas created relevant apparel for people to buy and show solidarity. Because Adidas makes apparel. Relevant and Engaging. Helping your clients create a quick crisis response is good. Helping them create a relevant and engaging quick crisis response is good business.