What's the correlation between burning hawks and disappearing honeybees? Believe it or not, they are both the intended beneficiaries of cause-related marketing initiatives currently in the marketplace. Many organizations are looking beyond health, education and the environment to identify new issues to support that will allow them to stand out amidst the cause clutter, and we may have just uncovered the most far-flung: A new effort by a California wine company aims to prevent avian electrocutions and deaths as a result of collisions with power lines. Ten percent from the sales of the new 'Burning Hawk' wine label will go to as of yet unidentified groups addressing this issue, which, according to research, costs the state an estimated $34 million a year and kills 174 million birds.
Contrast this with Häagen-Dazs' relatively new "Help the Honeybees" cause program. More than just a cutesy campaign, Häagen-Dazs is facing a real business issue as honeybee populations mysteriously disappear. Bee pollination is essential for the ingredients in roughly 40 percent of the ice cream maker's natural flavors (think strawberries or almonds), and a decreasing bee population threatens flavor variety and risks increased costs that will be passed on to the consumer. Häagen-Dazs has developed a multi-faceted consumer-facing program to raise attention for this niche, though legitimate, business and social issue, which includes cause (a portion of sales from certain flavors will go toward honeybee and sustainable pollination research), a panel of credibility experts and partnerships, educational components, community and employee involvement, advocacy, in-kind donations and extensive marketing both on- and offline. In fact, the company's somewhat bizarre viral bee video has been captivating viewers online to a tune of more than 2 million views in its first two weeks.
No doubt, 'Burning Hawk' is addressing an interesting cause, and one that may well attract curious consumers to the label, but it's clearly a stretch to say this issue is strategic or aligned with the business. As more small businesses enter the cause-related space and seek attention amidst dozens of other well-meaning companies doing the same, they would do well to observe the best practices of companies such as Häagen-Dazs, which has brought a seemingly obscure, but pressing business issue to light.