Cause Marketing

Two viral videos that do way more than entertain.


Viral videos are an amazing phenomenon. Often, they’re purely about simple entertainment/procrastination. (How many times have my kids exclaimed, “Charlie, you bit my finger?” A lot.)

But videos with real messages have legs, too. You’ll find no better example, in my opinion, than the Pink Glove Dance.

Each time I watch this sweet and silly video of healthcare workers dancing around in their scrubs and surgical caps, it brings a smile to my face. The video stars staffers at Portland, Oregon’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. Everybody featured is wearing pink vinyl gloves and dancing for breast cancer awareness.

Well, the video was such a hit that its sponsor, Medline (the manufacturer of those pink gloves), had to make another one.

“If one video and one hospital could bring this much attention to breast cancer awareness and prevention,” reads a caption on the website, “think about the impact of a video that featured 20 times the people and facilities participating in it.”

The result is this sequel video. The video features 4,000 dancers from 14 different medical facilities and this time, they include healthcare workers and breast cancer survivors.



The sequel is just as fabulous as the first video, if not more.  The song, “You Won’t Dance Alone” by the Best Day Ever, is perfect. The choreography is really impressive. (Well, impressive for a bunch of people who spent their twenties in med school.)

But it’s the vast number of participants that makes me cry every time I watch the sequel. There are dancers from hospitals in Newark, NJ  to La Jolla, CA to Plano, TX and they are all working it. Their joy is infectious and incredibly moving. These healthcare workers (and janitors and administrators and lab techs etc.) are all helping women with breast cancer. They fight the disease every day. As a breast cancer survivor, I can attest—these videos really do matter.

That’s clearly why Medline is keeping the magic going. Today, July 2nd, they’ll announce the details for another Pink Glove Dance competition. You know I’m going to campaign for my amazing treatment team to submit a video. I’d also love to be part of one of those survivor dances.

Whether or not we Detroiters make the cut, I’ll just be glad to see the Pink Glove Dances continue. Do a little procrastinating and check them out. I promise you won’t regret the eight minutes (ten if you stick around to make a donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation) you'll spend watching these advocates shake their booties for breast cancer.

Empowering women through social media (and more): Are you with the league?


Have you heard yet about The League of Extraordinary Women? I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.

The League - a list compiled by Fast Company magazine - is made up of 60 high-profile women who are doing amazing things for women (and girls).

Some of the heavy hitters on the list:

  • Coca Cola’s Charlotte Oades, who directs the company’s 5 by 20 initiative, which aims to support five million women entrepreneurs worldwide by 2020.
  • Asenath Andrews, principal of Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant teens.
  • Holly Gordon, whose 10x10 film and social action project follows ten girls in ten different countries where fewer than 50 percent of girls complete primary school.
  • Melinda Gates, who is directing her foundation to raise $4 billion for birth control for 120 million women by 2020.

Of course, we’ve seen lists like these before. Magazines (the good ones anyway) love to celebrate people who do good in the world especially when so many of those people are glamorous (Tory Burch and Jennifer Buffett) and/or famous (Alicia Keys, Laila Ali, or America Ferrara) and/or powerful (Hillary Clinton, Maria Eitel, Pat Mitchell).

But Fast Company is doing more than just praising these movers and shakers. They’re trying to turn the notion of helping women into a movement, one that will literally save the world.

Their Twitter campaign, #imwiththeleague, is generating statements like this one by Scott Tanksley: “#ImWithTheLeague bc I want my kids’ world to be more than humanity at 50% of its heart, mind & soul capacity.”

And this one by Christine Osekoski:  “#imwiththeleague its time that strong women truly come together to support each others’ initiatives to empower all women. Let’s do it!”

Let’s do it. While the women on The League’s list have connections, money, and power, they still can’t do their jobs without the rest of us. We all have to get involved. Alicia Keys, who is in The League for co-founding Keep A Child Alive, which supports HIV-affected families in five struggling countries, wrote about this in the June 20th Huffington Post: “What people often assume is that in order to make change a reality, you have to have some kind of superhuman quality and power inside of you. You don’t have to be a politician, or a scholar or a singer or a celebrity to recognize a problem and work towards fixing it by empowering others around you to take up the fight.”

Another thing that’s hit home as I’ve read about the League of Extraordinary Women, is how many of its organizations focus on educating, protecting and helping young girls. One of the most inspiring of these is The Girl Effect, founded by the Nike Foundation’s Maria Eitel.

According to the site’s homepage, the Girl Effect is “the unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” This amazing infographic further illustrates how a society’s health really does begin or end with its girls. In other words, to make this world a better place for all of us, we need to get girls and women to a better place; to a place where they are safe, educated, have control over their bodies, and have equality with men in the workplace, in the boardrooms, in governments, and at home.

I believe in this. I’m with the league. How about you?

Refer a friend to this innovative cause marketing.


I’ve always been a big fan of cause marketing, especially to reach women. Sure, we all love to get a sale price or cash back, but if the extra bang for our buck is a charitable donation, many of us are all over it. A study by Cone Marketing found that 88 percent of consumers find cause marketing acceptable, and 85 percent have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about. (Incidentally, those already super-high numbers go up to 95 percent and 92 percent when the consumers are mothers.)

Well, I recently discovered an example of cause marketing that gives both a discount and a charitable donation. It’s the Refer-a-Friend program offered by the suite of retail sites that includes,,,,, and (The sites are operated by the Amazon-owned Quidsi Solutions, LLC.)

Here’s how it works: If you go to, say,’s Refer-a-Friend program, you’ll get the opportunity (in the form of a referral code) to give a friend 20 percent off his or her first order.

When that friend uses Yoyo, the company donates up to $30 to Save Play/KaBOOM!  which builds playgrounds around the country. This, of course, ties neatly into the toy retailer’s brand. On the same note,’s chosen charity is the Best Friends Animal Society and’s is the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Share the promotion via Twitter, Facebook and other social media, and not only do you help a number of friends save some dough, but the charities get more money.

 Here’s why I think this promotion is both awesome and innovative:

  • It’s a win-win situation. If I refer a friend, I can do good by prompting a charitable donation and help my friend get a discount.
  • It’s good for the company. While all those donations and discounts will amount to a large outlay of money, it’s showing their customers they mean business. This will likely earn them some major customer loyalty.
  • It uses social media to publicize the promotion. This is savvy. It’s the rare person who’s going to gush on her Facebook timeline about But when gives her friend a discount and donates $30 to The FEED Foundation, she’s going to be more willing to shout about it on her social media. Again, this pumps up the brand and shows that Quidzi is serious about its charitable giving.
  • It adheres to the concept of a “signature charity.” The causes these websites support relate to the products they sell. With these donations, the sites are both doing good and supporting their own brands.

I particularly like this idea of a signature cause because, in fact, Brogan & Partners has had one for years: breast cancer awareness. As our CEO Maria Marcotte wrote in 2010, “This cause if very near and dear to us. On a professional level, we have a strong passion for healthcare marketing. And on a personal level, our Managing Partner, Ellyn Davidson, is a breast cancer survivor.”

I hope this is something we’ll see more and more of: companies incorporating philanthropy into their business models and marketing, and doing it in a way that serves their mission. If a company chooses a charity that’s relevant to its product or message, it allows for impactful storytelling. It creates an emotional connection. And that’s going to make for more profit and more charitable donations.

It doesn’t get more win-win than that.


Making shade.


Listening to a friend’s house-decorating stories often means enduring a litany of woes: the rug that was too scratchy, the paint color that was too bright, the upholstery that cost a fortune, and on and on.

But my cousin, Elizabeth—who’s sprucing up her new house in Atlanta—called the other day with a happy decorating tale.

It’s also an example of some great marketing to women.

Elizabeth had an enormous window in her stairwell that needed covering. She found the perfect solution at The Shade Store—a pretty roller shade made of grasscloth. Being a green type, she liked that the shade was made from organic materials and had a natural look to it. 

The Shade Store

I wasn’t familiar with this company but from what Elizabeth told me, it sounded great. The website tells you how to measure your window, customize your window treatment, and install it by yourself. Skilled customer service people will walk you through the process if you need extra help. For a busy working mom like my cousin—or myself, for that matter—being able to order and install a quality window treatment without having to hire (and meet with and pay) a decorator is a great time-saver.

Elizabeth and her husband loved the shade, her neighbors were grateful for the privacy, and that was that—or so they thought.

A couple weeks later, Elizabeth received a “Give a Tree” card from The Shade Store. As a thank you for her business, the company (through the Arbor Day Foundation) had planted a tree in one of our fire-depleted national forests.

What a great business move.

Since The Shade Store uses a lot of natural materials (organic ones, to boot), planting trees is a great way to promote its own brand.

It’s also going to help sales. The Shade Store’s products are naturally going to attract plenty of green customers. (Incidentally, a majority of those will probably be women. According to She-conomy, women make 85 percent of all consumer purchases and more than 50 percent of women say they want more green choices.) These customers are going to love the fact that The Shade Store gives back in the form of tree planting and they’re likely to give the company repeat business because of it.

It worked on my cousin. She’s now considering using the company for window treatments in her front room. I’m sure I’ll hear all about that decorating venture, too. But given the Shade Store’s inspiring business model, I don’t think I’ll mind.

Online campaign influences Mattel to produce bald Barbie for cancer-stricken youth.


The evolution of the Barbie Doll has been drastic since it first hit the children’s toy scene in the late 1950s. Since its launch, Barbie has had to combat multiple lawsuits and negative press about the unrealistic body image the dolls could be inflicting on young girls. Even with these public relations issues, the doll is one of the most successfully marketed children’s toys in history with hugely successful campaigns like its 50th Birthday in New York Fashion Week and the viral Ken and Barbie break-up social media campaign that had the whole world waiting for them to be reunited. Barbie was even listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 All-Time Greatest Toys.

Mattel and Barbie are now taking another step forward in strategic marketing and more importantly, in promoting a positive self-image for children who need it most. Mattel announced  on March 27th on their Facebook page that in 2013 they will be producing a bald friend of Barbie. This announcement comes off the heels of a parent-organized campaign on Facebook and to produce such a doll to help young girls cope with their loss of hair from cancer treatments or other diseases, which some doctors have said can be just as traumatic as the diagnosis itself.

Bald and Beautiful Facebook Page

With over 157,000 fans on Facebook this campaign caused quite the stir and eventually caught the attention of Mattel executives. An excerpt from their announcement states, “Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times. We are pleased to share with our community that next year we will be producing a fashion doll, that will be a friend of Barbie, which will include wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience.”

These dolls will not be available in stores, but with Mattel’s partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association they will be given directly to those girls who are most effected by hair loss. Although Mattel will not be directly profiting from these dolls,  as a marketer I can imagine the positive press Mattel will receive and the huge impact this will have on Barbie’s, sometimes debatable, image.

As a company who has been directly affected by cancer and works to raise money for cancer treatment efforts, we hope these iconic dolls can boost the confidence and brighten the attitudes of the brave young girls fighting this fight.


Today, we light it up blue.


Today is World Autism Awareness Day. That means for the next twenty-four hours, buildings and monuments around the world will be bathed in blue light. Among the places “lighting it up blue” are the Empire State Building, the Paris Stock Exchange, The Sydney Opera House . . . and the historic Peabody Mansion in Birmingham, Michigan, which is the home of Brogan & Partners.

I’m so proud that our firm will be a part of this amazing day, when so many people will be focusing on autism. Maybe the blue lights will inspire more people to volunteer on behalf of those with autism. Or to donate money for autism research. Maybe those who live with autism on a daily basis will choose this day to reach out and educate others about the disorder.

Blue Peabody Mansion for Autism

Photo by Mike Lord

There are so many ways to learn and help. The blue lights are there to remind us that autism is all around us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism’s prevalence has now risen to one in 88 children. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a personal connection to this disorder.

That's why we are supporting Michigan's Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, in his effort to implement autism insurance reform in Michigan--to make sure that the 15,000 people living with autism in Michigan get the treatment they need to live a bright and productive future.
That’s why I (as well as Brogan & Partners) am a longtime supporter of Friendship Circle of Michigan, which provides services to kids with special needs, including those with autism.
It’s why I contribute to Camp Kids All Together, which helps autistic kids go to an inclusive day camp along with children of all abilities.
And it’s why my husband, Jon, has just joined the board of The Bear Hug Foundation, which helps kids with special needs go to overnight camp.

As many of you know, we bathe the Peabody Mansion in a pink glow every October to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is the first time we’ve shined our light on a new issue. I hope it gets people talking. I hope it prompts a flood of donations.

And I hope it means that some day, that one in 88 statistic will be a distant memory.

The Hunger Games teams up against hunger.


Like everyone else's kids, my twelve-year-old daughter is crazy about The Hunger Games. She devoured the book trilogy and she's been making plans for the big opening day for weeks.

I myself have been kind of indifferent to the Hunger craze. I was only grateful that there weren’t any vampires involved. But then I spotted a Hunger Games promotion that made me a fan, too.

As the poster says, the world really will be watching when this much anticipated movie hits screens. So instead of just doing the usual glamorous premieres, magazine covers, and other ways to drum up ticket sales, the film is using its fame (and its theme) to do some good in the world. Through the Facebook page, people can make a donation for food distribution by the World Food Programme,internationally or WFP and Feeding America in this country.


To further entice fans to learn more about the very solvable hunger problem, the site features a quiz that includes facts like:

  • “1 in 7, or close to one billion people, go to bed hungry every night.”
  •  “Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.”
  • “There is enough food today for everyone to have the nourishment needed for a healthy and productive life. The problem is access.”

Finish the quiz—and learn an important thing or two—and you’re entered to win a signed Hunger Games poster.

To me, this is cause marketing at its best. The film not only gets its publicity, it also harnesses all that fan love to do, good work. It’s a win-win. And it’s made me—a formerly indifferent Hunger Games bystander—volunteer to chaperone seven girls to the movie on Friday night.




A secondhand smoke YouTube singing sensation.


Never underestimate the power of a good idea. It will stick in your head for years. It will push itself to the forefront among other ideas. And when the right people see it and believe in its potential, they will jump on your bandwagon. I came up with the idea for “Secondhand Smoke, Secondhand Rose”, 17 years ago working on the Michigan Department of Community Health account at Brogan.

At the time, we were doing some TV spots, so radio wasn’t in the budget and YouTube did not exist. But the tune, “Secondhand Rose,” (which is in public domain) and my rewrite of the words had a sticking factor. And the tune stuck in my head for years. So recently when I heard MDCH needed a radio spot about secondhand smoke for parents of young children, I remembered that idea from long ago. Of course, the original script was gone, considering it was written on one of the first Macs! But I recreated it. And I couldn’t have scripted what happened next better. Our wonderful clients at MDCH, Kelly Niebel and Jason Holben, let us produce it as both a radio spot and a YouTube video (the latter has over 4,000 hits just after a couple weeks). Serendipitously, we found the perfect talent shooting another spot for STEM awareness. We called in favors to make it amazing and stay in budget. But the icing on the cake: powerful results. The calls to the Michigan Tobacco Quit Line were so dramatic, one of our clients exclaimed she “almost fell out of my chair.” So that great idea you have, it can happen. It just may need a little longer incubation period. What do you think of our “Secondhand Smoke, Secondhand Rose” spot for the Michigan Department of Community Health? I'm glad it stuck in my head all those years!

Sara Blakely, Saving the World One Booty at a Time.


Not so long ago, if you wore a girdle, you didn’t want anybody to know it. Now girlfriends (including the Grand Girlfriend of them all, Oprah) love to dish about smoothing their muffin tops or rounding out their booties with sexy, slimming shapewear.

And it’s all because of Spanx.

Founded 12 years ago, Spanx sells (and sells and sells) not just because it works wonders on women’s bods, but also because it does it with winning sass, from the naughty name to the cute cartoons on the packaging.

And that’s all because of Spanx founder, Sara Blakely. Her force of nature personality, relentless work ethic, and most of all, true understanding of women, have made her a newly minted billionaire at age 41. She’s the youngest self-made woman on Forbes magazine’s “Rich List.” 

She’s also my latest girl crush. (For other strong, entrepreneurial women I admire, see my blog post on Sheryl Sandberg  and check out my mentor and founder of Brogan & Partners, Marcie Brogan.)

I love Blakely’s back story. She started Spanx with $5000 of her own money. She had an idea to improve upon control top pantyhose and had to practically storm a hosiery mill to get them to make her prototype. She wrote her own patent to save legal fees. She hand-sold Spanx at a folding table at Neiman Marcus using picture of her own disappearing panty lines and stayed up all night filling her own mail orders.  

Now that her company—which is debt-free and privately owned—has hit it huge, Blakely’s personality still charmingly infuses everything Spanx does, especially its savvy marketing. The company’s staff is dominated by women who put themselves out there as much as Blakely does. On the Spanx blog,  “The Rear View”, for instance, staffers pose for before and after photos in Spanx nipping and tucking swimsuits.  

And in a section called “Spanx-Giving,” we hear about charitable work staffers have done for organizations like the Foster Care Support Foundation’s Prom-A-Palooza.

Blakely also gives back with motivational speaking, largely aimed at women, and impulsive gifts of joy, like treating everyone in her favorite restaurant to dinner.

A cute cartoon of Blakely herself, wearing a long blond ponytail, is perched at the top of the every page on the Spanx website. It’s clear that, while her ragtag underwear company has changed immensely, Blakely has remained true to her very feminine self. And that’s the best recipe for success I can think of.

Innovative healthcare marketing example #9.


Did you catch the Ozzy Osbourne "Colonoscopy Sweepstakes" spot on the Grammy's Sunday night? Grand prize winner gets flown to New York for 3 nights in a luxury hotel overlooking Central Park, cash, and the main event - a free ride to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for a free colonoscopy! The hokey approach kind of threw me for a loop and I thought maybe it was a hoax. But it sparked my interest enough to check it out on the CBS Cares website.

Sure enough, it's for real. CBS Cares has been doing PSAs for a host of health care causes for many years. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne's participation is inspired by Sharon's successful battle against colon cancer.

Personally, I'd rather experience the discomforts of this procedure close to home, but for the uninsured and/or adventurous, perhaps this is just what the doctor ordered! There's something for everyone and if it gets people to get their colonoscopy or garners interest in the topic, it's a winner in my book.

Take a look and tell me what you think of this innovative healthcare marketing example.



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