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Money Can’t Buy Human Rights: Why I'm Not Fully Sold By Corporations And Their ‘Allyship’

Updated: Mar 12

Seasonal marketing irks me.

There are two occasions where my visceral disdain for festive spirits are at its peak. The first is the day after Halloween where shops where not a single pumpkin is left in sight. Days and weeks worth of post-Christmas sales occur every year, but apparently Halloween is not given the same courtesy.

The second time is when stores start selling Christmas tat not just before Christmas, but at least two months in advance; skewering my eyes out and roasting them like chestnuts is more appealing than looking at Capitalism at the heights of its artificially flavoured ‘good cheer and kindness’. Both occasions invigorate this urge to launch into an unprovoked rant whilst checking spiced-apple detergent prices in aisle six.

If it feels like I have animosity towards Christmas being prioritised over Halloween, it’s because I absolutely do — I feel as if I see right through the cheap displays of holiday spirits. I don’t want corporations to pretend they care about holiday cheer when they may just want to maximise their numbers at any timely event of the year.

Similarly, you could argue that companies that market their work for, or with, marginalised communities are either disingenuous or just a way to bank on any possible aspect of social relevance. Or both. Cause marketing benefits the company, but does it really benefit us and what we want to consciously invest in?

Defining Cause Marketing

Cause marketing is a type of advertising or promotion to support or highlight social causes and issues that may not be specifically related to the brand, but imply to consumers that brands are financially investing in social and humanitarian campaigns. The Cancer Research Institute states that “cause marketing campaigns may range from a single annual donation by an organization, to a percentage of sale price of a company product line, to net proceeds from a limited edition product by an individual engaging their fan base for a good cause” ("Cause-Related Marketing").

According to Sara Flis, additional examples of cause marketing include:

  • 100 percent of sales donated to a cause

  • Buy one give one

  • Donation with purchase

  • Proud supporter (whereby a company associates itself with a socio-political movement or gives a grant/gift to a non-profit)

  • Volunteerism partnership (employees donate time to an activity)

  • Gift-matching

  • Co-branded events (Flis).

I don’t necessarily have issues with brands that, for example, invest in research awareness or fund causes that are marketed to inform audiences and how they are able to help — such as Cancer Research’s Race for Life. I do have an issue when companies utilise the tools of cause marketing to boost their numbers more than the cause itself; when a corporation’s allyship or philanthropy is short-term, transactional, and relies on consumer purchases. In my opinion, corporations need to make improvements by holding themselves responsible for long-term commitments in supporting marginalised communities.

Anti-Hauls: My Epiphany about Marketing and Allyship