Groupon’s Fumble Gives Causes Chance to Score Big - By Joe Waters

Joe Waters blogs on cause marketing at He is the co-author ofCause Marketing for Dummies (July, 2011).
Feb 9, 2011 7:54 AM ET
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Groupon’s Fumble Gives Causes Chance to Score Big


Enough people have registered their opinion to confirm this deal-breaker for everyone:Groupon’s Superbowl ads Sunday night were ill-conceived and offensive. Goodwill earned from this promotion: 0%.

As of this printing, Groupon should have apologized (they haven’t), pulled the ads (saw one last night), fired their agency (standing shoulder to shoulder) and donated a boatload of money to the causes they offended (Umm…nope).

But while the ads may have been a disaster for Groupon, they highlight four important lessons for causes and the businesses that work with them.

Holy, Batman! This cause marketing stuff really works! The outrage against Groupon was immediate, loud and passionate. As Willy Wonka said, “Strike that. Reverse it.” Now imagine if Groupon had produced a great cause marketing ad and the raves it would have earned from viewers. Cause marketing is a powerful, meaningful strategy that enhances a company’s favorability–when it’s done well. When it’s not, it has an equally potent but negative impact.

Group buying sites can work for causes. There was a legitimate giving component to Groupon’s Superbowl spots but it wasn’t mentioned in the ads (Groupon offered to match donations to the causes they dissed). Also left out was that Groupon and other group buying sites can be used to help causes. Groupon and Living Social have worked to raise over $250,000. A recent post in Mashable reviewed seven group buying sites using daily deals to give back. And just this week I did a deeper dive on, a daily deal platform that lets causes and individual fundraisers combine commerce with contacts to raise cash.

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