SocialVibe – The Revolution in Cause Marketing

How would you feel about sponsoring a worthy cause, like providing clean water to people in developing countries? What? You say you can’t spare a dime? That’s OK. I guess everybody is tightening the belt with the ongoing economic collapse. But what if I told you that you could still make that worthy move without having to spend so much as a penny? How does that sound?

Did I got your attention? Good. That’s how SocialVibe got mine. SocialVibe is a new project, dedicated to “enable interaction between people, the brands they love and the causes they are passionate about”. To put it in a nutshell, it allows you to sponsor a cause using corporate money. Pretty cool, ahn?

Here’s how it works: first you choose your cause, from an extended palette that includes WWF, the World Food Program and the American Red Cross, among lots of other less resonant but equally worthy groups. My personal pick was charity:water, a group that supports clean water projects in developing countries. Given that 1.1 billion people (approximately one fifth of mankind) goes by everyday without access to clean water, I thought this ranked high for priority funding.

Having picked your cause, you then move on to choose a sponsor from an equally vast selection, featuring an assortment of household names like Apple, Dolce&Gabbana and the NBA. To make it even easier for you, the sponsors are aggregated in nice little categories – Fashion, Entertainment, Music, etc – so you have no trouble selecting one that you’ll be comfortable with parading to the world.

Finally, you build a badge to plant on your site, blog or social network profile. To make you even more comfortable with having the stuff attached to your online persona, you are offered a range of customizable options. Each sponsor has a set of predefined art designs for you to apply to the badge, so the pride you feel about sponsoring that worthy cause isn’t damped by a little bit of shame about having an awful sticker in your site.

Once the badge is on your profile/weblog, it starts earning points to your chosen cause, points that will be translated in cash to be given by the selected sponsor. You decide, the brand pays and the cause gets it. It’s as simple as that.

What SocialVibes actually does is turn the logic of Cause Marketing upside down. Gone are the days when brands chose a worthy cause to support, then advertised this support at every chance they got in order to prop up their image in consumers’ minds. Now it’s the consumers, not CEOs, who choose the cause to which brands will contribute. All they have to do is come out with the cash at the command of the almighty consumer.

Does this mean that CEOs have gone over the edge and just decided to start giving away their money at the behest of people that may not even give them back a single dollar of profit? On the contrary – this is an incredibly shrewd move.

For one, it involves the endorsers in a deeply emotional connection with the brand. You partnering with Adobe to provide clean water to that African community is a pretty impressive narrative, one that is likely to bury itself deeply in your psyche.

It also gets brands tons of impressions soaked in good karma. It’s one thing to watch an ad saying that Adobe is partnering with charity:water to provide clean water to developing countries. Another is to see a badge in the profile or blog of someone you know stating that Adobe is partnering with that person to help charity:water. This is a way more personal level, and considerably more efficient in terms of brand positioning.

So far SocialVibe hasn’t raised a whole amount of cash. It started rolling in May this year, and in the first quarter SV donated $90 000 to charities, barely a drop in the ocean of all those marketing budgets. Considering the depth of emotional involvement with consumers, enhanced by the huge buzz potential, I’d say that brands are getting a bargain.

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