Scoring a Perfect 10 on Earth Day

April 20, 2016  | By Ketner Group

This blog was written by our intern, Cambria Sawyer.

Cause marketing is a lot like college.

I first started to see this connection in my journey as a Ketner Group intern back and forth from the office to the jungle (a.k.a. campus). You see, college is a balancing act.

Professors assign you more hours of homework than you have in a day. Somehow I’ve managed to survive off of cheese sticks and grapes for the past week, but the grocery store is in my imminent future. I need to go to the gym, steel drums practice, a club officer meeting and still go out with friends tonight– and all I want to do is take a nap.

Figuring out how to fit all the pieces together so they make sense and reach a goal is a delicate art; the same type of challenge comes with devising an effective cause marketing campaign.

If you break it down, it has two, equally important parts: the cause and the marketing, but putting the two together is easier said than done. Brands have to be careful when they choose a campaign. It must be simple, interesting and brand-relevant, while not appearing insincere. Digiday explains the stakes well in an article warning brands of “cause fatigue,” where poorly balanced campaigns cause consumers to stop taking corporate social responsibility seriously.

This Earth Day, I want to take a few brands from the apparel and fashion industry and rate them on a 1-10 scale for their Earth Day cause marketing balance skills.

 

Photo courtesy of Amour Vert
Photo courtesy of Amour Vert

Amour Vert
Rating: 4
The sustainable fashion brand’s “Buy a Tee Plant a T(r)ee” campaign is fine, but that’s kind of the point– it’s just fine. While the rhyme is catchy and the cause is admirable, the connection between the fashion brand and planting trees is not particularly strong. Not to mention this is definitely not the first time a campaign identical to this has been launched, so it also looses points on originality. It’s clear to a consumer that this campaign is more about the marketing.

 

Burton
Rating: 8
A brand for the earth-conscious adrenaline junky, Burton takes environmental campaigns to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Burton
Photo courtesy of Burton

Their most creative plan to save the world (yes, they have many) is, in my opinion, the Burton x Mountain Dew campaign, where recycled plastic bottles are converted into the thread Burton uses to make some of its equipment and athletic wear. It’s unique, but still hyper-relevant to what they do as a brand. Where the brand falls short is its lack of focus on a specific campaign. While it undoubtedly earns a perfect 10 conservation-wise for facilitating a whopping 11 separate eco-campaigns, the marketing aspect suffers. As the Harvard Business Review advises, keep it simple. There’s a fine line between impressing and overwhelming your customers.

KEEN
Rating: 10
The footwear brand’s motto is “Follow Your Feet,” so that’s what it’s doing– and it’s awesome. KEEN’s Live Monumental Film Tour campaign began as a cross-country road trip 10 months ago in a yellow RV. As the brand ambassadors travelled 7,500 miles from Oregon to Washington, D.C., a film crew captured their efforts as they received more than 40,000 petition signatures to protect 3 million acres of public land, according to Cause Marketing Forum.

Photo courtesy of KEEN
Photo courtesy of KEEN

The grand finale? A yellow-carpet movie premier of the film on Earth Day and film tour to follow. The campaign directly correlates with the hiking- and travel-oriented merchandise the brand offers. Even if it wasn’t relevant, the idea itself is so intriguing you forget it’s a marketing move in the first place. What’s even better? Two of the five natural areas the KEEN campaign focuses on have been declared as “protected” since the outset of the movement, a tangible achievement consumers can really take to heart when evaluating the brand.

A perfect 10. Nailed it.