“I donated products to a non-profit and it didn’t do us any good!” We hear this all the time. Many brand builders are discouraged from contributing their CPG brands to worthy causes because they don’t get thanked, they don’t get press, and they don’t get brand recognition. Why? Because they did not work with the non-profit to make the most out of their donation.
One of the tenants of the Barefoot Startup is to reduce you need for capital. One of the biggest capital needs for any startup especially in the CPG space is advertising. But advertisers will tell you that you won’t get any traction unless you run your ads for a long period of time. Very expensive. Oh, and then you can’t stop, because you will be conspicuous by your absence.
Most commercial advertising is a shotgun approach. You blast it out there and hope to hit a duck. Most startups can ill afford this form of advertising. That’s why we recommend Worthy Cause Marketing. It worked so well for us, we built a national best-selling brand without commercial advertising.
When investing in Worthy Cause Marketing, you identify a cause that resonates with your brand, your product, and/or the folks who can appreciate your product. It’s not a shotgun blast, but a very narrowly-sighted and carefully aimed approach. It answers the questions: “What worthy cause has members who will benefit from my product or service?” and “How can I donate my goods and services to such a group in a way that will maximize sales?”
Now that’s where the thinking come in. It’s not just a blind, one-way donation. You are not doing it to brag to the general public about what a good person you are. You’re doing it to get your name, your product or service, and your community service message in front of the members of that non-profit organization. You’re doing it in the hopes that they will see a social reason to buy, and better yet, advocate for your brand. And therein lies the art of the donation.
You will boost your brand by putting these 9 conditions on your donations of goods and services; and most non-profits can easily accommodate you:
- Carefully Target the cause. Don’t donate to just any cause. Donate to the cause that has potential customers in their membership who can benefit from buying your brand.
- Fundraisers are best because they attract the folks who have disposable income. They are usually dinners with silent or public auctions. Your products will be identified by brand and made very visible.
- Your label must be clearly visible, not hidden behind a bar, table, or in the back room. Otherwise they will see it as a commodity and be thankful, yes, but it will not help your brand.
- Your One-Sheet is on the place setting for the fundraising dinner. It says why you support the non-profit, some product information, and where your goods and services are available in the immediate vicinity.
- Exchange logos and ask them to thank you on their site using your logo. Then, you use their logo on your site with an explanation of what you are doing and why you support their goals.
- Prepare and deliver a post for their site that says what you are doing and why, as well as where they can find your goods and services. Add a picture of your representative with their director at the fundraiser.
- Create point of purchase marketing materials promoting their cause and advertising their fundraiser in your marketplace, a unique forum they can’t otherwise access.
- Ask for a public “Thank you” from the podium during the event. Also ask for a mention in their newsletter before and after. And ask if you can put up your banner during the event.
- Ask retailers if they want to be listed on your one-sheet, where-to-buy list. Ask for a display of your products with the materials promoting the fundraiser and the non-profit’s goals.
The non-profits we worked with were happy to provide these services to us, which cost them nothing but added a great deal of value to their cause; and retailers will support the cause with a display of your branded CPGs. Product donations don’t have to be nameless commodities. Build your brand by supporting worthy causes and get your name out there! Barefoot Wines is proof that it pays to give!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders