Has anyone heard this story yet? American Girl Dolls have come out with a brand new addition: Gwen Thompson, a homeless pre-teen. She was abandoned by her father and now lives out of a car with her mother. The doll’s price, you ask? $95.
“Homelessness is a serious social issue. With over 10 percent of the U.S. categorized as homeless, the new American Doll does embrace an aspect of our culture that needs to be communicated […] However, capitalizing on the unfortunate circumstances of transients without any type of give-back to the homeless community is as the Huffington Post puts it, in bad taste,” said Rogers.
As you can imagine, backlash to this doll has been very apparent. Many feel American Girl’s efforts are only to make money off of homeless children by capitalizing on their issues.
The solution? Rogers believes it’s all about cause marketing. This means involving the efforts of a “for-profit” business with that of a “not-for-profit” organization, for mutual benefit. While it may be too late for American Girl to reclaim their good name, Rogers says that had they thought of this idea beforehand, much criticism could hav ebeen avoided. She suggests providing 10 percent of sales to a national shelter program for the homeless, or another similar initiative that would provide some good.
This strategic program could build a better reputation for the company as well as really helped the community. Their cause marketing could have provided people with links to make their own contributions or educated the public on the realities of homelessness.
“Cause-marketing is a proven way for building reputation and goodwill among different target audiences. Studies show consumers support companies that give back to the community. […]Perhaps it is time to start connecting in new and more meaningful ways,” concludes Rogers.
I completely agree and I think we can learn a lot from this example. Not only is cause-marketing smart for business efforts, it can also dramatically help the community around us. By providing means for well-off girls only to purchase this doll and who could not relate to the topic, why not educate them on the seriousness of homelessness? Can you think of any other ways American Girl doll could have avoided this fiasco? What are you takes on the homeless girl doll? Do you think cause marketing is an effective way to avoid crisis?