As I write this dozens (perhaps hundreds) of marketers are kicking around thoughts of new marketing campaigns in which they donate a percentage of their proceeds to relief efforts for those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. I have one word for them:
I'm sure they are doing this with the best of intentions. And I bet most of them are good people. But this practice, which seems selfless is anything but. In reality, what these companies are doing is saying "Hurricane Sandy - what a horrible event; how can we benefit from it?" While some are obvious - like American Apparel's (APP) blatant Hurricane Sandy Sale email, others may seem to be doing good on the surface.
Here's Ferragamo's pitch:
In aid to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Efforts, Friday, November 2 - Sun, November 4.
In this instance, they don't even state what percentage they're giving. Is it 10%, 1% or .0001%? No way to tell.
But even if they were giving an explicit percentage - as companies like Courtshop, Barney's New York, Gilt City and Natori are doing, it's still horribly offensive in my opinion. They are out there using the victims of Hurricane Sandy as props in an effort to market their products. And that's simply craven and wrong.
Look - if you're a retailer or other brand and you wish to make a donation to help the victims of Sandy, there's a really easy way to do it. Write a damn check. And if you truly want to tie that to revenue, feel free. You can project what your revenues will be this week or this month - so write a check for some percentage of that. But don't wrap your marketing efforts in Hurricane Sandy.
And this goes beyond just Hurricane Sandy. As we approach the holidays, Toys R Us and other retailers love to put up boxes to collect Toys for Tots gifts. But what they're really doing is inflating their own sales, by convincing their customers to buy additional gifts at full price. Before their well-deserved bankruptcy, Borders was the master of this, aggressively asking every customer at checkout "do you want to buy a book for a needy child?". "Oh, no" I was tempted to respond; "I like the needy to remain ignorant". Instead I, like many others, was guilted into buying additional books at full price (Borders never chose books off the sale rack for these offers), propping up their weak revenues.
If retailers want to support organizations like Toys for Tots, it's really easy to do. Let your customers buy those gifts at cost, rather than at retail price. That way, we know you're doing this because you mean it, not to inflate your own revenues.
So, join me in commending those companies which are out there writing checks - like Disney (DIS), News Corp (NWS), Target (TGT), Kohls (KSS), Hanes (HBI), Home Depot (HD), Wal-Mart (WMT), Viacom (VIAB), Ross Stores, Wells Fargo (WFC), BofA (BAC), Lowe's (LOW), Chrysler, Ford (F) and others. These companies have given without asking anything in return - and we should support them.
And please also join me in boycotting those companies who are trying to boost their top line by wrapping themselves in the cloth of the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They are shameless and do not deserve our patronage.
Do you know other companies who are generously supporting those impacted by Sandy? Or companies looking to use Sandy as a marketing ploy? Please note them in the comments below.