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Tote bag marketing, books and sneakers

September 9, 2011
by seth godin

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Not sure if you’ve seen the auction Nike is doing to raise money for Michael J. Fox’s foundation that researches for a cure for Parkinsons.

1,500 pair of shoes were made based on the futuristic sneakers he wore in the original Back to the Future movie. So far, typical bids are around $4,000 a pair, and it’s certainly going to go up as the auction goes on. Figure they’ll raise $10,000,000, easily. Good for them.

The interesting lesson for me is that this fundraiser is 100% about the shoes. The charity is an asterisk. This is a branding and nostalgia exercise, with the opportunity for resale at a profit thrown in as a bonus. Tote bag marketing, without a doubt. The lesson for fundraisers everywhere is: if you have something like a celebrity shoe or a signed Chuck Close painting to sell, you should definitely go do that. The ends are fabulous, and there’s nothing wrong with the means to get there.

My cavil is that what we’re undermarketing is the pleasure (and I use the word carefully) of doing something for others. Our culture’s marketing mantra is rarely about them, it’s almost always about us. Us sells far better. I don’t think that’s genetic, I think it’s a learned instinct.

Conventional wisdom says that if we had piled on hundreds of dollars of coupons and bonuses and special access, we certainly would have sold more copies of End Malaria. The amazing news: I’m thrilled that we’ve already raised about a quarter of a million dollars (after just 2 days) thanks to readers like you as well as our generous sponsors. We didn’t sell that many copies because of what the business community was getting, we sold them because of what you wanted to give. It doesn’t hurt that what you got was amazing, and a bargain, and worth sharing, but that’s not why you bought it. You bought it because of the way it made you feel to give.

Thanks.

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