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Appropriating Causes For a Marketing Boost

Good morning, everybody! I want to welcome you to another Marketing Monday. Thank you so much for joining me. 

What Lesson Did You Learn This Week? 

Before we get started, I’d like to ask you what lesson you learned this week. I’m going to get a little personal with you. I had some fear crop up around sharing this story with you, but I shared it on Clubhouse and it gave me a bit more courage to share it here with you all. 

In the past week, I learned exactly how important my business is to me and how social expectations have steered my decisions in the past. I pulled my kids out of virtual public school. I had been struggling to keep up with the homeschooling. 

I wasn’t planning on homeschooling my kids forever; just until they could go back to school. But homeschooling is hard. I was sitting here like, “I might have to scale back even further on my business in order to make this homeschool thing successful.” 

And then I realized that my other alternative is to put them back into virtual public school. I thought about it, and we do have really good schools. The teachers are really good, and the content they put out is quality. Why do I feel like my only choice is to give up my business? 

I think that that might be social conditioning, because there was a little gremlin that popped up in my head as I considered this, saying, “A good mom wouldn’t even consider that. A good mom would just sacrifice her business.” 

And then I snapped back into my authentic self and thought, “All right then, I guess I’m not a good mom.” So I registered the kids for school. The lesson I learned was that there are many ways to be a good mom, and I don’t have to listen to the gremlins or society’s expectations of me. 

How and Why Would Someone Appropriate a Cause? 

Typically, a cause is appropriated either intentionally or unintentionally. It happens both ways, but it doesn’t matter because both are offensive. You can appropriate an issue because you’re trying to ride the trending train, so you use that issue or cause to get some of that SEO juice and get it back to your own profiles. 

If you go back to our performative marketing post, it’s not performative if you’re also doing something else on top of posting about a cause – like donating time or resources. So if you’re posting about BLM, what else are you doing? 

I personally wasn’t able to attend protests, but I was able to support my good friend and business colleague – Dr. AJ – with her culturally competent conversation summits. So there are lots of ways to show support, and that’s how you avoid appropriating an issue or cause.

Using a Cause for SEO

I was scrolling through my Google Discover feed and I stumbled upon an article mistitled “A Personal Brand in a World of Me Too’s”, posted on February 18th 2021 and written by a woman. 

What does it contain? It begins with understanding consumer insights, treading out clear objectives, gap analysis, defining the message and understanding the most effective opportunity to present those messages to the target audience. All in all, it has nothing to do with Me Too. 

However, since Me Too has been trending for a long time and it’s a huge keyword, this person used it in order to put this article in front of more eyes. I thought maybe the article would talk about how to incorporate personal branding and your Me Too story, and this was just a bad title. 

No, this article is using Me Too for clicks. As a two-time sexual assault survivor, I can’t tell you how upset I was, and that’s all I’m going to say about that so I don’t trigger anybody. That hit me. And the fact that this article is written by a woman or that it was an Indian publication does not matter at all. It illustrates my point perfectly. 

You do not use cause hashtags this way, because the only thing they were trying to do was catch some SEO from the wrong keyword. 

Why Using Unrelated Tags Is a Bad Idea

And there’s a good reason why that doesn’t work. First of all, the Google algorithm is really smart now. It’s going to figure out that your article has nothing to do with Me Too. 

Secondly, do you have anything else on your website related to Me Too? No? Ok, then this was worthless – unless you plan on adding more content. 

Google isn’t looking for a single article anymore like it used to. If I created a beautiful 3000-word blog post on real estate but I don’t have anything on my website on real estate, Google’s going to ignore that.

Not Doing Enough Research When Entering a Discussion Around a Cause

In 2014 the hashtag #whyistayed started trending as women started sharing why they stayed in abusive relationships. 

This all happened after a video of Ray Rice abusing in an elevator came out. Well, people were saying that this woman has so much money and resources, so why did she stay? 

I was also at one point in a very emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. There’s a lot of complex reasons why someone would stay, and that’s what this hashtag was about. 

DiGiorno made an egregious, egregious error and tweeted out, “ #whyistayed You had pizza.” DiGiorno deleted the tweet and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t actually research the hashtag before I used it.” 

They got all this smoke because somebody did not research the hashtag before they used it. In an effort to make amends, the person in charge of that account was personally responding for a really long time to people who were tweeting at them about this issue, apologizing profusely. 

But you can’t unring the bell. We all saw it. It doesn’t matter if you deleted it, because that tweet is going to live on forever now. 

How We Can Do Better

If we’re going to do better about the appropriation of causes, you have to consider exactly what I said about performative marketing. Yes, I am posting this, but what else am I doing? 

If DiGiorno had posted something serious in the hashtag and then donated a certain amount of proceeds to a particular organization in support of domestic violence or something similar, that would have been completely different. 

What keeps you from appropriating causes and issues that would normally be outside of your lane is taking action. And though people sometimes do make light of different causes, understand that every single person that you interact with has stories that they may not be comfortable with sharing. 

When Me Too first came out, I wasn’t openly sharing my own stories, but I saw who it wasn’t safe to share my story with. So please understand that as you’re using these causes and issues in your marketing, make sure you’re also doing something to help. 

As someone who sits at the intersection of a lot of marginalized groups, I know when I’m looking at performative markers. Please do better. Talk the talk, walk the walk. And if you want a little bit more on that, you can refer back to my performative marketing blog post

That’s what I have for you today. If you have any other examples of marketing that’s appropriated causes and issues, I would love to hear it. I’ll be talking about an empowered storytelling series on Clubhouse, but I’ll also be sharing the takeaways of that on Marketing Monday. Marketing is storytelling too! Thank you so much everybody for reading, and I’ll talk to you soon!