I need to preface this post with the disclaimer that this may come across as a bit twisted.
That being said, I was at a funeral last week for a cousin of mine. It was an extremely sad situation. He left a wife and 4 young sons ages 6 to 1. He was only 34 years old.
However, I saw a bit of marketing wisdom at work. A friend of his just opened a new Gelato shop in town. When he heard of my cousin’s death, like all of us, he was devastated and wanted to do something for this family.
So he hosted a night in honor of my cousin. All the proceeds he made for the entire day went to a fund that my cousin’s wife had set up in his honor. News of the event spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth (supercharged by things like blogs and Facebook). There were pictures posted all around the Gelato shop. His wife and kids were there to greet people.
All in all, it was a wonderful event and very theraputic. Lines were out the door the entire day. People came out in droves to honor my cousin and the great life he lead.
However, this Gelato shop owner may have made a brilliant move without even knowing. Now an enormous group of people not only knew where his shop was, but had a chance to try out his ice cream. Also, he was now associated with a wonderful cause and I would imagine that a significant percentage of that crowd that showed up to honor my cousin will be back to patronize the Gelato shop again.
He may have raised $15K for my cousin’s family, but he probably only spent about $1000 in product costs. His return will likely be tens of thousands based on the lifetime value of his customers. You simply can’t buy that kind of marketing any other way.
I saw the same thing happen when at previous firm that I co-founded, we decided to take up the cause of a popular football coach for Boise State University who was being courted by a major college program. We posted an online petition, we hosted a rally in front of the stadium, and we printed posters highlighting the accomplishments of the program trying to convince him to stay. In a matter of 1 short week, we had been featured in almost every media outlet in town. Although he eventually took the job at the other university, we had garnered ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in free press.
One of the most powerful marketing tactics available to a small business is hitching yourself to a cause or a movement. Giving can sometimes be very profitable.