Cause Marketing, Selfishness Drive Consumer Giving - By Joe Waters

Joe Waters blogs on cause marketing at He is the co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies (July, 2011).
Apr 12, 2011 9:02 AM ET
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Cause Marketing, Selfishness Drive Consumer Giving

New research out of the University of Michigan confirms what I always knew was true: I was right to name my cause marketing blog Selfish Giving. After giving college students the choice between donating through a cause marketing promotion or donating directly, the students that chose the former felt more selfish, less generous and even less happy.

Maybe I should change my blog to

I’m going to hold off. And you should wait before you take off your “pink” running sneakers, or hide your Product Red coffee mug until you read beyond the three headlines from this recent study.

Cause marketing decreases giving, happiness. The Michigan study, which was conducted with 300 college students in a student union, only looks at one type of cause marketing: purchased-triggered donations. These “costless” donations are made by the company when the consumer buys a product or service. The consumer contributes nothing and gets something in exchange.

As example, a current promotion by Boston retailer iParty is donating 100% of sales from Japanese erasers to the tsunami relief effort. To date, they’ve raised $5,000. iParty shoppers only need to buy the erasers to trigger the company donation.

These gifts aren’t completely selfish as the company is making a real donation to the cause, something it doesn’t have to do. And consumers have a choice of whether or not they purchase the cause product, which impacts how much the company gives to the cause.

continue reading at Selfish Giving