As cause marketing gains popularity, MSN aims to help it along. The company announced last week that it would partner with WhatOnEarthIsGoingOn to create an online community by which brands can connect with consumers through issues they find important.
The whatonearthisgoingon.msn.com portal will tap MSN’s existing user base to create an online community where they can learn about and act upon social issues. The site will then target them with relevant marketing programs from “like-minded brands.”
WhatOnEarthIsGoingOn is a set of marketing initiatives put forward by Grey London’s former creative director David Alberts to create what he calls socially relevant brands. In an interview with ClickZ News, Alberts said, “Nowadays, brands need to differentiate themselves through their values. Who you are as a brand is just as important to the consumer as what you make, or the services that you offer. Brands will be able to use this as a platform to demonstrate their values to consumers, and feel comfortable in doing so.”
“The beauty of the Internet is that we can do this on a daily basis,” he continued, adding, “It’s sustainable marketing.”
Gayle Troberman, head of branded entertainment at MSN said, “There is no one place that consumers can come together to discuss socially relevant issues. This will enable us to harness the power of brands and bring together consumers and marketers with the right causes.”
MSN itself already has aligned with the environmental cause in a big way. In July 2007, the firm sponsored the Live Earth series of international concerts in conjunction with the “Save Our Selves (SOS) – The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis” initiative, a pet project of former Vice President Al Gore and others. The Live Earth concerts were shown on MSN, and according to the company, received a total of over 15 million video streams.
Whether brands really care about social causes or are simply exploiting them for marketing purposes is another question. “Consumers are passionate about certain topics, but are also increasingly sceptical,” acknowledged Troberman. “Brands need to prove their authenticity, and consumers trust brands that mean something to them.”
Alberts sees no reason why effective marketing and the promotion of good causes can’t go hand in hand. “We want brands to see a return on their investment, but why shouldn’t good messages be spread through good marketing? I love the fact that brands are doing well out of supporting good causes, and I think we should applaud that,” he said.
The announcement was made on Thursday at London’s World Entrepreneurial Summit in London. The portal itself is currently still in development, but is due to be unveiled “soon” according to Alberts and Troberman.
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