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This post is part of a series examining the effects of a recent charity campaign by Yoplait on their overall brand. You can read earlier installments here, and here.

yoplait-cyberversion-lid

When we were last together, we were talking about translating my Yoplait experience as a consumer to a study of Yoplait from a branding perspective.

First, is Yoplait trying to achieve higher visibility through this breast cancer donation? Or are they just trying to do something good?

Before I answer – the reason we’re even asking this question is because of a common cop-out answer made by smaller companies. I know I’m guilty of it. It goes something like this: “Yeah, I know we probably screwed that whole branding/marketing/ publicity/website promotion up, but we weren’t trying to promote ourselves. We just wanted to do some good.

To which I answer, doing good is great. But if you kill the effectiveness of your brand in the process, that affects the believability of all your other marketing efforts including marketing. If customers don’t believe, they don’t buy. If they don’t buy, you can’t do good.

But let’s answer the question anyway. Was the breast cancer awareness raising about doing good, or looking good?

I’d guess both.

I know some people look at a company that is doing charitable work and think,they’re just doing for the tax break, and they’re just telling us for extra brownie points, and I’m not falling for it.

And, if this were 1980, I’d agree with them.

But once I became a business owner for the first time in 1996, I started to see things differently. For me the process went, “I bet I could encourage other companies to band together and do non-profit work if I told people I was doing it.

Companies are run, and owned by people. Making consumers aware of that is part of what branding is about.

To continue with my personal experience of this… Since my audience is almost exclusively B2B, I started having Non-Profit Sundays in one of my blogs, hoping to influence other businesses.

In this weekly series, I’d talk about low-cost and no-cost ways that micro-businesses can do good works. (I did this for years until I got sick the last time, and haven’t picked it back up on any of my blogs just yet.)

At some point, I went to my accountant, who said if I actually started donating as a company, I’d get a tax break. And she said it would probably be a good idea if I wrote about what I was doing because then I’d remember, since I kept the most horrible records at the time.

Then I spoke to my mentor, who said, hey, you’re already doing it, you may as well get some publicity out of it. So I did.

And I believe that variations of that happen at big companies – all of them were once small companies, right?

So maybe I’m terribly naive in this regard, and in generally believing that people are mostly good and intend to do good unless and until they run into a corrupting influence. But I believe Dannon and Yoplait set out to do something positive. And for our purposes, we’ll pretend that I’m right until Dannon or Yoplait comes here and tells us otherwise.

So, our first assumption is, someone at Yoplait thought of this great idea, then someone else at Yoplait in legal or accounting or the CFO said, let’s maximize this benefit.

Logically, if Yoplait intended to gain some positive publicity from it, to do so, they’d have to engage the part of their audience most likely to engage. Who would that be? You’d presume the most vocal of their audience.

It would follow that they’d have to figure out how to reach them. A commercial? Not for something that’s not going to make a profit, unless they can make the money back in publicity. If they’ve done it, as a consumer, I don’t know about it, because I don’t see most of my programming live. I fast forward commercials when we record them on our DVR, and I don’t read the paper or magazines.

Given that they suspect this, what’s the best way to reach those people? Packaging. The one thing all their customers on earth have in common is that we have to open the containers to get the yogurt in our bellies.

Elsewhere in the universe they may have some kind of osmosis process that allows them to absorb yogurt right though the plastic, but even then, they’d be looking down at the lid.

Assuming they have eyes.

Um.

Anyway, our second assumption is that since they put the promotion on the package, they expected to reach people who eat their yogurt. That seems like a “duh” kind of assumption, but all this starts to become relevant in a moment, I promise.

The third assumption is that they not only wanted to reach me and other people in their target market, but they wanted to involve me.

Fourth, if they want to involve me, it’s not to waste my time, but to increase my brand loyalty to Yoplait, thus ensuring that I continue to buy Yoplait, and probably, since they want me to collect lids, that I buy more Yoplait.

Why are these assumptions important? Because if they are correct, they inform us of what ought to be in the thought process as Yoplait or a company like them, puts this process together.

So How Did Yoplait Score?

As we said, that would depend on what their goals are, both for the campaign and  for the brand. If our assumptions are true, we can deduce the following (this is where I fulfill my promise of relevancy!)

A successful campaign of this sort  is supposed to make me as a consumer:

  • identify with the brand through at least the appearance of similar goals,
  • bring me an emotional connection to the brand through recognition of our common concerns,
  • deepen that emotional connection through the knowledge that the brand understands my experience of life as it relates to the action they want me to take
  • easily take their proposed action
  • create an additional bonding experience through that action
  • become part of their viral marketing machine by spreading their proposed action through word of mouth

Yoplait’s score here is  3 out of a possible 6.

They definitely scored as far as making me feel we had a similar goal in common. I would love to keep my breasts my whole life, and help other women keep theirs. (I could say we’re both anti-breast cancer but let’s be real here. If this disease caused youthful lift and appearance, rather than tumors and possible loss of mammaries, would we be fighting it? If I’m in a marketing mode, I’m talking to you in terms of brass tacks.)

Yoplait is telling me that not only do they want this, they’re putting their money where their mouth is.

Point.

Does that make me feel emotionally connected to them. Yes. Point.

Does it deepen the connection through my feeling that they understand and empathize with me as a person? No. “Save lives, save lids” is an awesome slogan. And if I weren’t a lazy bum like most of my cohorts who might find the idea of saving lids for an organization that’s already promised they’re going to save lives anyway? Maybe that would mean something to me in real life.

So now I have to take a half point away from the last emotional connection, dropping them to 1.5. Though I will give them half a point for realizing I’d want to help. So they’re at a 2 now.

In my view as a consumer, can I easily take their proposed action? No. I have an item that got returned to me in the mail that I’ve wanted to return for two months. But since the post office is not on my weekly, or even monthly errand list anymore, I haven’t gone.

It leaves me wondering why I couldn’t just email my lids. Of course, then people could cheat, but then you either cap the number of pictures that can come from a single phone number or number the lids. Or cap the donation amount to be the number of lids on the market.

Plus, what would people cheat for? Even if I have a relative who had breast cancer (and I do), I don’t have an emotional motivation to do it. It’s not as if more lids will definitely cure the cancer. And I don’t directly benefit if my family member has already suffered and/or survived, except the intrinsic possible benefit of more money for research.

So. No point.

Am I part of their viral marketing machine now as a consumer? Nope. I’m telling you about the campaign but not virally, not through word of mouth, as a kind of case study. If I look at this strictly as a consumer talking, not.

Bottom line: This won’t make me love Yoplait any less, but it also doesn’t convert me to a die-hard fan, or make me want to tell even my sister about it and we talk about Everything.

In fact, the only thing it makes me want to do is tell you what Not to do.

Important note here though: this is still an incredible opportunity for Yoplait to respond in a way that could bring them millions and millions of dollars in free publicity.

How?

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the first steps I would take if Yoplait came to me as a client and asked me what to do next. This will be helpful to you if you’ve ever wanted to figure out how to turn mixed or negative publicity into good publicity for your business.

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