Tag Archives: 413Assign4

Name of the Game: Marketing. Rules? Depends on the players.

12 Mar

The “rules” of marketing have been heavily debated. Go ahead and Google “Rules of Marketing” and see what you get. The results are all over the place. There is not one single textbook definition or solid set of principles that every single marketing department and marketing firm adheres by. Personally, I believe it depends on the organization and what works the best for them. After all, each organization has its own target market and distinct strategies. However, in his article Marketing and Communications in Nonprofit Organizations, David Williamson of Georgetown University outlines nine morals that he believes should be closely adhered to in marketing specifically for non-profits.

For the purpose of this blog post, I have zoomed in on three of the nine morals, or guidelines, that Williamson believes are crucial to non-profit marketing success. As my group and I dive into our ABAN research, we are keeping William’s morals in mind as they apply to our client.

Morals In Context: Successes and Failures

Moral: You can’t go far wrong in communications if you stick to the Holy Trinity: Audience. Message. Vehicle.

How does this relate to success non-profit marketing? It is so simple! Let’s start with audience, aka who or what you need to reach. How can they be identified, and are they already aware of the issue? Second, you need a message that motivates the audience. I think this motivating message, which provokes a ‘call-to-action’ can be viewed in two ways. The first is inspiring the audience to act for the first time; the second is capturing them as a life-long supporter. How many times have you given to a charity only once? My point exactly. The last component to this moral is the vehicle, or “the best means of delivering the message to the target audience.”

Okay, I have just thrown three ambiguous nouns at you: audience, message, and vehicle. Essentially, this moral ensures that you are delivering a meaningful message to the right people in the right ways. To better understand this moral, let’s take a closer look at the March of Dimes.

Often times, people believe that effective marketing costs a pretty penny. However, the March of Dimes has proven otherwise, using a multidimensional approach that supports its core mission. According to this Mashable article, blog posts, YouTube videos and Facebook posts have been spreading like wildfire. Why? Because they are telling stories of how a child’s life has been saved. These stories are constantly updated on Twitter. This user-generated content has been supported by the organization and provoked discussion that allows people to tell their stories. The user-generated content has created loyal ambassadors for the brand. March of Dimes supporters have shared their personal stories and stories of other babies (message) with their friends, creating new supporters (audience), via social media technology (vehicle).

March of Dimes Twitter Account

March of Dimes Twitter Account

This example of the March of Dimes directly reflects Holly Stewart’s advice of telling a story. A mistake non-profits management makes is that they dangerously assume that everyone else cares about their cause just as much as they do. Unfortunately, that just is not the case. So, how do I get new supporters’ attention? Tell a story, and make sure you are keeping audience, message and vehicle in the process.  Nothing is more genuine than a story about saving a baby’s life.

“Not very complicated, right? And if it’s as simple as that, then how come marketing consultants continue to earn handsome fees from nonprofits?”

A very valid question, Mr. Williamson.

Moral: Fundraising is often a core component of marketing and communications, but not all fundraising collateral translates into more money raised.

Fundraising for a non-profit can often appear as skeptical. As Williamson states in his article, “… is a healthy skepticism about the demands of fundraising collateral.” Nothing is more annoying that organizations asking for money. Sometimes I ask myself, how do I even know this money is going to the cause? I believe that a tool that can combat this is simple Thank You follow-up emails and Thank You videos.

photo credit: Amber B McN via photopin cc

A Thank You from March of Dimes baby
photo credit: Amber B McN via photopin cc

According to the blog post, Five Common Mistakes Make in their Online Fundraising Campaigns, a Thank You email or Thank You video goes a long way. How often does a simple ‘Thank You’ from a stranger brighten your day? The same applies to supporters. And let’s face it- people want to see the difference they are making with their donation. Show them.  Take a look at the Thank You video from Operation Smile. The organization’s management, doctors, nurses, and patients are all shedding light on how they could not do it without you, the supporters.

Of course, I am sure this video took a little extra time to make. But the returning supporters satisfaction of knowing where their money is going and the supporter appreciation is well worth it. In the words of David Williamson, “the key is to focus on few things that you can do that will have the greatest impact” and “don’t try and save money by cutting corners.” It is not worth it in the long run!

Moral: Your brand defines your organization to the outside world. Take the initiative and define yourself, before one of your enemies tries to define you.

We have taken a look at Operation Smile and March of Dimes, both distinguished non-profits that are following one, if not many more, of Williamson’s recommended morals. What about an example of a non-profit that has failed because it has not followed the morals? Point in case, Madonna’s organization Raising Malawi. This organization was founded in hopes of establishing a school system for impoverished girls in Malawi. According to the New York Times article, Madonna’s Charity Fails in Bid to Finance School, after spending $3.8 million dollars, the organization flopped because of a lack of identity. Madonna’s management style was reportedly below par and supporters in Hollywood, that were supposed to give some pretty big bucks (if ya know what I mean), abandoned the project. Madonna’s former boyfriend, Tracy Anderson, also cost the organization its reputation with expenses for his golf course membership, office space, and a free car and driver for the school’s director. Seems a little silly to spend money on all these things when girls in Malawi are lacking an education.

David Williamson would explain this as “lack of authenticity.” Clearly, Madonna’s charity was a failure. According to Williamson, “regrettably, about the only thing that compels non-profit leaders to pay attention to branding is when something goes spectacularly wrong at high-profile peer organizations.” Despite the fact that Raising Malawi was not a high-profile organization, Madonna is a pop icon and known face, and therefore draws a lot of attention.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that is all we have time for today. But I urge you to Google Williamson’s article and dig into the other six morals. Pretty insightful! Read on, friends.

Bunting, out.

This blog post is a part of a series of assignments of Integrated Marketing Communications at Elon University.