Tuesday 2¢: Charity, Tchotchke or a Chair?

How do you attract attendees to your conference stand? What do you think of using charity? My advice this week; try not to make them sick to their stomach

Recently I was chatting with a chum about an industry event, and some of the posts we were seeing on social media about it from the attendees and event organisers. 

My chum noticed a vendor offering a small charitable donation in return for every delegate who took a photo on their exhibition stand and posted it on the socials, using a branded frame, the obligatory tagged mention and hashtag, of course. 

I’ve clearly become jaded, as you see this sort of thing all the time, but my chum was taken aback by this cynical use of charity to encourage folks to do social media marketing for them. Their comments:

“That turns my stomach… Tricking people into believing it makes them a better person to market on their behalf”

Well, yes… golly, they are right. And it doesn’t actually matter if they are right or what your opinion on this tactic is; the fact they had this reaction that it “turned their stomach”. 

And three things struck me about this.

#1 – Are we all jaded now?

Firstly as I say, I felt like some jaded old marketer for not immediately reacting in the same way and having that pointed out to me. 

I can imagine the meeting when this was planned,  a crew of junior B2B field marketers getting creative in how they might cut through the noise with some attention at yet another “meh” industry event and get their message beyond the attendees into the socials. 

And having exhausted the catalog of branded soon-for-landfill tchotchke, the idea of a prize draw for a cheaply made electronic doohickey that could be a potential fire hazard and all of that……

Someone says:  

Charity! Everyone LOVES charity! 

High fives all around and off to pick up the creative from Kinkos.  

Would I have said no to this idea?

I have never used charity as an incentive in a call to action, but probably after a few hours of brainstorming some terrible ideas – would this have seemed like a good idea? I need to really think about seeing this stuff through fresh eyes. 

BTW – some of this might sound cynical, but I’ve worked with some splendid Field Marketers who have come up with some great ideas. Remind me to tell you the one about the tarot cards… 

#2 – Take a pause and consider a diverse set of views

So my second point – especially for something you plan to post on social media – is that you must view this from every angle.

Is this:

Harmless fun and a small donation to charity? 


A heartless sales and marketing technique to exploit people’s good nature?

Our idea, planned through our rose-tinted marketing specs in the Pollyanna meeting room with a bunch of people just like us, might only be good and differentiated because it crosses a line somewhere. Does it?

Of course, you may decide that line is very crossable – who cares that you might piss off a couple of people? Being edgy about duping people into marketing for charity is your thing. 

But, you need to do this deliberately, within your brand.

#3 – Be careful about who you piss off, even if it is just a tiny minority.

Hmmm.. yeah… this is all cool until you find that you’ve just pissed off a….. I can’t say as I want to keep my chum anonymous…. but not the type of industry cat you want to make sick to their stomach. 

Bonus #4 – What do they really want?

And fourth (I know I said three), maybe think about what conference attendees really want.

And you know what people want at conferences? 

Is it to make a charitable contribution or some branded tchotchke?

Nah, it’s:

A chair. 

A place to sit to eat their lunch 🙂

The image was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator

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