Holiday Marketing Takes a Turn for the Better

As countless ads, articles, and email blasts relentlessly remind us, "'tis the season!" 'Tis the season for crappy copy writing, apparently... But amidst this barrage of cheesy headlines, 20% off coupons, and cringe-inducing 'Jingle Bells' rewrites, one industry is standing out as a shining example of what seasonal marketing should be. This year, for one reason or another, non-profits are doing a particularly wonderful job of marketing, especially to Millennials.

The first one I that caught my eye was charity:water, a fantastic organization that aims to bring fresh drinking water to the one in eight people in the world that don’t have it (yeah, that’s almost a billion people that don’t have access to safe drinking water). I found them several months ago through Twitter, and since then I’ve been following them with great interest. One, because I think it’s a tremendously important cause, and two, because their marketing is phenomenal. Check it out:

1. Social media
- Twitter
- Facebook
- Myspace
- YouTube

2. Website – I love their website: It’s easily navigable and clean. It has loads of information about the cause, and offers multiple ways to get involved (plus it’s quick and easy to sign up for). I also like that it uses technology in a memorable and impactful way. Like this Google Earth project, which shows images of charity:water projects around the country. It’s amazing to see where your money is going and the communities being impacted by it.

3. Email – they do a really nice job with their email marketing. It’s not overzealous. It just tells you what’s new and firmly (but kindly) reminds you that they’re still around and that the cause is as important now as it ever has been.

4. Products – I was a little worried about charity:water this holiday season, because for a long time, they weren’t offering anything for purchase. Then I got the above email blast and was able to rest easy. Sure, plenty of people will donate without receiving anything in return, but if you can sell them a bracelet or a t-shirt or a water bottle, why not? Suddenly, not only do you have a donation, you have a brand ambassador too. Click here to see their holiday gift line-up.

5. Events – charity:water had an awesome-sounding gala recently called charity:ball. I’m a big believer in event marketing. The more authentic you can make your brand, the better – particularly with Gen Y. Having a live event allows people to connect with a brand on a personal and emotional level. With a cause, even more than with a retail brand, I think that connection is an extremely important element of a campaign.

The second is a charity I’ve followed for a very long time called Invisible Children. It’s an organization started by a group of Gen Y filmmakers who traveled to Uganda in search of a story and came home with a mission. Confronted with the harsh knowledge of a country raising child soldiers that ultimately become both the weapons and the victims of a decades-long war, they took it upon themselves to raise awareness of this very real and scary problem. The organization’s awareness strategy is centered around documentaries, but since its beginning in 2003, it has expanded a lot, allowing them to take action in Uganda – rebuilding schools, providing scholarships, employing mentors, and helping displaced people return to their homes.

1. Social media
- Twitter
- Facebook
- Myspace
- YouTube

2. Website - definitely the highlight of this website is the seemingly never-ending supply of informational and inspirational media. If you’re visiting for the first time, you’ll have no problem figuring out what it’s all about and how to get involved.

3. Email – I actually haven’t gotten an email from them in a long time, so I was happy to get this email a couple weeks ago. I loved the subject line, “Cashmere Schmashmere.” For me, simple, to-the-point emails are most effective, and they nailed it.

4. Products – one of the staples of Invisible Children is their bracelet campaign. The bracelets are made by Ugandans who are supplied with materials and training, and then given a generous salary for each bracelet they create. Each bracelet comes with a DVD telling the story of a displaced child in Uganda. They have loads of other products, all equally cool, to choose from if bracelets aren’t your thing.

5. Events – Invisible Children has done an amazing job in the past of rallying the youth around their cause. The first event in 2006, called the Global Night Commute, brought more than 80,000 people in 126 cities across the US together to commute to their city centers and sleep in the streets. The following year, 68,000+ people in 15 cities participated in Displace Me, an experiential event designed to raise awareness about what it feels like to be displaced. I’m surprised there haven’t been any events like this since then. It seems like now would be a better time than ever to organize a flash mob, with new tools like Twitter for bringing people together.

Both of these organizations get lots of PR, which is another important way to reach Gen Y. I remember a while back when Invisible Children was featured on 'Veronica Mars' (great show – should not have been canceled), and I was so pumped I bought the t-shirt Veronica was wearing.

I think one of the greatest things about our generation is our eagerness and ability to rally around causes and create change. With all the technology and information available to us, I think we have a real chance to make a difference. I appreciate organizations like charity:water and Invisible Children that realize the impact the younger generations can have and make an effort to reach us with their messages.

That said, I encourage everyone to donate to your favorite charity and make this holiday season a meaningful one. If you don't have a favorite charity, you can donate to my charity:water holiday campaign here.

Happy Holidays!


Anonymous said...


Really enjoyed reading this latest post. It's always refreshing to see a fellow blogger and a fellow Gen Yer choose to promote a cause they truly follow and believe in. Kudos to you! Your post has given me the inspiration to write my next post on a cause/non-profit I have followed and supported for several years now called Mocha Club. Maybe you've heard of it but in case you haven't and would like to check it out here is the link to their site.

Look forward to reading your next post and happy holidays!

Matt Stengel

Rob Smith said...

A great post, fantastic to hear your interpretations of marketing in the modern age. Our blog, Millennial Worker, also written by millennials, offers our interpretations and views about the developing world around us. Perhaps it might be of use to you.

Keep up the great blogging

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Gopal Sukhija said...

Yes, Fresh water is most needed after oxygen.
They are doing a great job in providing fresh water to billions.

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