Philanthropic Blackmail: Marketing Fail

green giant

Yesterday I posted a rant about marketing, more specifically about BAD marketing…marketing fails. Since I published it, I keep remembering or spotting more of these ridiculously bad ad ideas and marketing schemes.  I’m going to focus on one today, one that has really started to piss me off.

It’s the faux philanthropy bait and switch ploy you see almost daily on Facebook. I saw an awful one today.  Green Giant has graciously agreed to donate “up to 5000 cans of green beans” to Food Banks Canada. That’s great… they should be doing that anyway. That’s good corporate citizenship… hell, it’s also a tax write off. Instead, they have found a way to turn it into some pretty sleazy self promotion.

Here’s the problem: General Mills, Green Giant has a promotion tie in with Food Banks Canada on Facebook: “For every LIKE on Facebook we’ll donate 2 cans of green beans up to 5000 cans”. That’s right. 5000 cans. They needed 2500 likes to trigger this donation, too. So let’s see; 5000 cans which retail at what… $1 per can? So that’s a $5,000 donation. Well, thank you very much.

General Mills had a good year last year; profits were up, shareholders were happy.    What I see, beyond the much needed donation of 5000 cans of  green beans to Canadian Food Banks is a widely shared Facebook marketing campaign with huge reach, great feel good payback and lots of piggyback credibility by pairing with such a reputable charitable organization.  And all for $5000. Wow.  That’s a pretty powerful media buy for only 5K.  Think about it… what else can $5000 buy you if you’re an ad buyer? Nothing. Not 30 seconds on tv, not a 1/4 page ad in a national magazine. Nada.  And you can be sure that most people will forget to “unlike” the page, and will have their newsfeed cluttered with Green Giant marketing from now on. Well played, General Mills.

That’s a lot of reach for not a lot of green… and I see it again and again and again. And you know what? I hit “like”.  I hit like so those damned beans would get to the Food Banks Canada shelves, where they really are needed. But I hate it and I know I’m being manipulated and I think it’s pretty tacky marketing.

I love Food Banks Canada. I’ve served on the board of our local Food Bank and appreciate the powerful advocacy work FBC does, and the way they are able to secure generous food donations from major food producers in Canada year after year. I am thankful that Green Giant  donates food to Canadians in need.  This week is Hunger Awareness Week in Canada, May 6-10, and the message needs to get out and out and out that there are far too many hungry people in our country, and a staggering number of hungry children.

If you want more information on what you can do to help Canadians struggling with food insecurity or to learn more about the true demographics of hunger in this country, visit http://www.foodbankscanada.ca/

If you are in Whitehorse and want to know how to help, please visit http://www.whitehorsefoodbank.ca/

If you live in the US,  Feeding America is a great place to start: http://feedingamerica.org/

Faux Facebook Philanthropy is blackmail – just donate the damned food. Fail.

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2 thoughts on “Philanthropic Blackmail: Marketing Fail

  1. I understand why you clicked the like button for the green giant food drive. You are probably right to do so. The cause is sometimes greater than what we would rather do.

    I never click the like button for anybody that asks me to. I think perhaps facebook should in addition to the like button add a submit button. That is what it means to do some you are asked to do.

    I never like a post or a page if I am asked to and I don’t care who asks me to do it. I will never follow a blogger that asks me to follow them. and I read every single article of everyone I decide to follow. I comment when I have something interesting or related.

    I hate the disingenuous of what the social media is becoming. .

  2. Tom, I am also annoyed by the sneaky “like” requests, but this goes deeper for me. This is big, rich companies who ought (by my socialist left leaning Canadian thinking) be sharing at least some portion of their gains with the society that created that wealth. Whether you look at it from a political, social, or even biblical point of view, it’s the ethical imperative. Manipulating your consumers in order to look shiny and generous is duplicitous and pathetic.

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