At Cultivate earlier this week Clint Runge of Archrival marketing made a statement about the ease of causes. He was talking about generational marketing and the differences between Generation X and Generation Y. While general principles and trends may be true, I hate when marketers try to split people into clearly defined groups based on when we were born. Babies aren’t born into neat categories like that.
But that’s besides the point.
He said that the most important cause for today’s generation is the environment. Easily the number one cause they rally behind. Why? He said because it’s easy. Few will argue about the importance of protecting our planet. It requires little research and little knowledge. You can do simple things to be more eco-friendly and you’ve done your part. Compare that to health care. There’s a cause that’s not simple. It requires loads of research, you’ll face lots of opposition and argument, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a simple way to get involved like recycling paper or turning off a light.
“Social cause used to mean marching and burning bras,” Runge said. “Today it means wearing a bracelet or a T-shirt. Putting a sticker on your laptop. It’s too easy.”
He has a point. We like causes that are easy. It’s easy to slap an anti-abortion sticker on your car. It’s a lot harder to volunteer in a crisis pregnancy center or even support a woman so she can keep her child.
But I think part of it is cutting through crap and making things clear. I like charity: water because they make the case for clean water so simple and compelling. Compare that to the fair trade chocolate campaign. It’s an equally compelling cause, but they haven’t simplified or clarified the cause, the call to action or anything to make it easy enough to get involved. I can still claim confusion and rest in my inaction. I like M&Ms. If you want me to stop eating them you need to make a compelling case. I feel like a bastard saying that, but it’s true.
What I’m saying is that in some ways causes should be easy. It should be easy to understand the issue. It should be easy to take action, whether it’s donating money, spreading the word, changing your behavior or whatever. And the results of your action should be clear.
The cause itself may not be easy. But I should be able to engage with the cause with ease. Invisible Children strikes me as an incredibly complicated cause that they’ve made very easy.
So I think Runge is right—we like easy causes. But I think that’s simplifying it. We like causes where we can make a difference. We like causes where we can see a difference. If you make that part easy, I think people will be willing to do incredibly challenging things. I’ll do the hard work and make the hard choices, but only if you’ve made the decision easy.
I think there are a lot of lessons here for nonprofits and churches. Most organizations want people to go farther than simple bumpersticker support. And I think if you make the path clear, people will follow it, no matter how hard it is. The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama is clear proof of that. Presidential campaigning has never been simple or easy, but the Obama campaign made it clear and compelling and people volunteered and donated like never before.
Make it easy to support a hard cause.