Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How NOT to market your charity event

I spend a lot of time volunteering as well as doing my fair share of pro bono PR work, both professionally and via my students' classroom projects. PAWS Shelter, Austin Cycling Association, the Zach Scott Theatre, the Fine Arts Festival and the American Heart Association are just a few organizations I've done PR for. Because our dogs are rescues, I pay attention to fundraisers for Austin rescue groups. Yesterday, I received this email announcement:

Subject: Charity Dog Wash

Do you have a dirty dog? This is not a pick up line. Seriously, if you've got a dirty, stinky or mangy dog, bring him by the Bark N Bubbles dog grooming salon this Sunday and the MorningX will wash him all shiny and clean for you. What's the catch? No catch really, we just want a $10 donation (at the very least) which will go to a local Pit rescue organisation. Come out to the Dog Wash and meet some delightful Pits who may change your mind forever. We'll have refreshments and snacks, as well as 101X goodies, and you'll be doing something constructive with your Sunday instead of getting drunk.

So at first I'm thinking, "hey, this might be fun and a good cause. Allegra was really smelly the other day (I swear, she has BO on hot days); maybe we'll do this."

Then I read further. I don't care how nice some people say pit bulls are; I'm really not wanting to meet one up close and personal in a stressful situation with a lot of other noise and activities going on. After all, Dante is a big wuss and doesn't like chihuahuas (or poodles or any other toy breed that barks at him, or any dog that barks at him, or anything that looks at him cross-eyed), I don't think he can handle a pit bull. But I keep reading and keep thinking about going.

Then I get to the call to action. Excuse me? Are we trying to be clever, because it just falls flat. Actually, it's somewhat offensive. Not only do we usually do something constructive on Sundays (which most of the time involves construction and/or cleaning), I can't really recall the last day, much less Sunday, I spent the day sitting around getting wasted. It's not daily, weekly or monthly occurrence.

In marketing, there can be a fine line between a home run and a huge stinking foul. As I tell my students, "always have someone read what you wrote because what was in your head may not be how it reads on the paper, and when in doubt, leave it out." I wish the charity well in its fundraising efforts, but quite honestly, this email was a turn off and the only baths our dogs will be getting this Sunday will be in our backyard.


Anonymous said...

You should probably keep in mind that this fund raiser is being held by a local rock station, not a church.

dquack said...

One of the first rules in marketing is know your audience. This message was on a dog events email list, not the rock email list. If you don't know what will go over with your audience, play it safe.

Anonymous said...


Don't attempt humor around the uptight.

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction you did, Dana. Then I thought, perhaps the target audience was people who love pit bulls. They're a different breed, themselves. Perhaps pit bull lovers DO spend Sunday getting wasted...

Auntie M.

Anonymous said...

Wow Antie M,

You just made a no-no yourself! Way to stereotype pitbull owners. I happen to own two and am the VP of Marketing for an Inc. 500 company. Do I drink? Once and a while. Am I white trash? I think not. Your assumptions are as dumb as the marketing team that issued the press release.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with getting wasted on a Sunday, or any day for that matter.
'When in doubt, leave it out.' I'll hang onto that one :)