Villing & Company

"Fox in Socks" and Other Lessons in Values Marketing

Dr. Seuss still sends me to the verge of a panic attack. My pulse races and my stomach twists in knots. This is not a reaction to the thought of some strange creature purported to be living in my pocket (see: wocket), but rather the result of a yearly rite of passage from my days as a television news anchor.

Each year, our station’s promotions department lined up schools for the anchors to visit and read to the students there. I loved the opportunity – or at least, I loved the idea of the opportunity. At the school, the students almost always chose "Fox in Socks" or some other overly-alliterated tongue-twisting tale as the story du jour. And when your job consists of reading without looking like you’re reading, trying to make it through a book like Fox without stumbling is the oratory equivalent of bottom of the ninth and two outs. In a word: pressure.

Obviously, the benefit to the station wasn’t based on my ability to flawlessly execute a reading of Dr. Seuss. (Luckily so.) It was in showing the community involvement efforts of its brand. While we were known for our “products” of writing and story delivery, it was the application of those products toward a greater good that endeared us to our audience, our “customers” if you will.

That’s always been a goal of so-called “cause marketing.” Yet that two-word phrase is increasingly becoming a one-word term. More brands are rolling messages once labeled “cause” into general marketing efforts.

Take General Motors for example. Here is a company emerging from an embarrassing episode of being bailed out by the U.S. government. If there ever was a brand that had to hit all the numbers on its next campaign, GM is it. But rather than focus entirely on the quality, durability and usability of its vehicles, GM’s first marketing endeavor contains strong overtones of environmental consciousness.

Or, consider Dawn dish soap. Recently Procter and Gamble jumped on the fact their product is the dish soap of choice for cleaning oil from the wildlife victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf. I ask you: How many consumers have weighed the prospect of needing to bathe oil-smothered pelicans when purchasing dish soap? None, but that’s not the point. The point is P&G and other brands are creating an emotional connection with the consumer by demonstrating they share similar values.

Perhaps “values marketing” is a more accurate term than “cause marketing.” Every brand, every company has a set of values, and many are finding it as important a selling point as the performance and quality of their tangible products. Before you launch your next campaign, writing a values inventory of your company may be a worthwhile exercise.

Just go easy on the alliteration.

Filed Under: branding

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