Cause & Effectiveness (2)

[October 13, 2009]

As I continued to explore cause marketing Web sites, I discovered that the messaging, design and content issues I discussed in my previous post recurred in varying degrees on other sites. Even those showing greater sensitivity to design and user experience were only as effective as their messaging strategies allowed them to be.

Comparatively speaking, the American Diabetes Association site addresses many of the concerns I’ve raised so far, at least schematically. Its marquee area starkly establishes a central theme of health care reform and draws visitors into the cause with bold action statements: “Sign Our Petition,” “Get the Facts about Health Care Reform,” and “Share Your Health Care Story.”

Equally important, the home page menu helps visitors find an appropriate path through the site, whether they are active seekers, people with diabetes, caretakers or healthcare professionals. So, with minimal use of “real estate” the site outlines a significant percentage of its message very efficiently. With its uncluttered look, clear navigation and featured content, I suspect visitors find the home page easy to grasp.

“Gettable,” but Forgettable.
Clarity, however, is not enough. Another crucial factor is emotional impact, and in this respect the site is very ineffective. Internal links inviting users to participate in events, volunteer their time or register their support, have a bland, off-the-shelf visual style. Many of the images are indistinguishable from those found in marketing brochures for summer camps.

Equally generic is the writing style, an outgrowth of the standardized calls to action common to many a non-profit organization. Together, these predictable visual and verbal elements rob the site of a key component: A unique, branded voice.

Conversation, Community, Communication…
By contrast, the National Wildlife Federation site reflects a more coherent messaging strategy. It leads with a marquee area subtly set off from what follows, allowing visitors to pause and absorb the statement, “Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.” Rather than demanding our participation this marquee respectfully invites us in.

Next, non-verbal cues convey calm wonder at, and positive affirmation of, our prospects for achieving the Federation’s stated goals. Along with a consistent, uncluttered design palette, the site also features a judicious use of video—adding dimension to its message and offering many users a more accessible way to absorb its central points.

What’s more, this site’s conversational tone creates a feeling of community and shared responsibility—unburdened by finger pointing. As a result, a site every bit as encyclopedic as diabetes.org makes its points in a much more easily digestible way.

That’s no accident. In fact, this site is a clear reflection of a well-conceived, overarching message to its audience: “Wildlife preservation is not only morally correct, it’s also achievable, practical and enjoyable.”

My survey of selected cause marketing sites continues in my next post, where I’ll explore sites that carry this principle a step further.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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