Redbook EIC: Cause Marketing Helps Readers ‘Be a Good Person’

Increasingly, magazines are finding that championing charitable causes is not only good for the soul, but it’s also good for the bottom line. Rodale senior vice president, editor-in-chief, Men’s Health and editorial director, Best Life David Zinczenko — perhaps the current champion of cross-promotion — moderated a panel on cause marketing featuring Stacy Morrison, editor-in-chief, Redbook; Linda Fears, editor-in-chief, Family Circle; and Colin Kearns, senior editor, Field & Stream.

Morrison, who cut her cause marketing teeth while championing the prevention of domestic abuse during her time at Marie Claire, brought the practice to her new publication. “There isn’t a single issue of Redbook that doesn’t have some sort of cause-related issue in it,” she said.

Kearns, whose magazine oversees the “Heroes of Conservation” program, thought the initiative helped dress up an otherwise bland subject. “We’ll compare conservation to broccoli,” the editor explained. “It’s important, you need it, but it’s not that much fun. … ‘Heroes of Conservation’ is the nice cheese to put on our broccoli.”

(The winners of the program win a truck from Toyota, the company that sponsors the project. “How do you reconcile the fact that the Toyota Truck gets 10 miles to the gallon?” Zinczenko asked.

“You have to understand that the work these people are doing is massive,” Kearns responded. “Some dude hauled five million pounds of junk out of America’s rivers. They aren’t just going to dump this stuff in their Prius. They need something with a little meat in it to do their stuff.” Okay then.)

While getting an advertiser to cover costs is important, banking on being able to recruit one from the beginning is a dangerous proposition. “You can’t go into it expecting to attract advertisers immediately,” Fears, whose magazine champions the “Great American Bake Sale,” said. “You have to do what’s good for your brand and hope it goes from there. If you build it, they will come.”

Morrison initially worried that readers might react negatively to cause marketing because they wouldn’t want it forced down their throats. In fact, internal polling has found exactly the opposite. “[They say] it helps them ‘be a good person,'” she said.