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Bringing Social Cause Marketing to China, California Style

| Thursday February 16th, 2006 | 1 Comment

swarzzeneggerchina.jpgEven by itself, each one of these three statistics is enough to bring deep fear to any socially and environmentally conscious person:
1. Of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 16 are in China
2. The Chinese automobile market is expected to be bigger than the U.S. market by 2025. Some 74 million Chinese families can now afford to buy cars.
3. Every month, China must build enough urban infrastructures to accommodate a city the size of Houston in order to absorb the 300 million rural Chinese who will move to cities in the next 15 years.
These figures come from an article featured in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 13 highlighting Governor Schwarzenegger’s trip there. Apparently the abovementioned statistics and their implications were not lost to the governor. In addition to making speeches at disability and Special Olympics conferences, he promoted California clean technologies for China’s problems. Aside from the heavy dose of celebrity marketing, the Governor used well documented social cause marketing strategies to not only pitch California’s green products, but to make a veiled political statement on human rights as well.


Social Change marketing is not easy. Many campaigns to get people to change habits go unheeded because short term economic interests are at stake or because people are resistant to change. (see Katsuri) For this reason it is important to identify the primary beneficiary of any program for social change. Swartzenegger was strategic here when he championed a Chinese government initiative to help disabled people as a successful example of government doing the right thing for humanity. Implied was the message that perhaps improving human rights may be an equally worthwhile endeavor. The governor was equally strategic when he pulled out a SunPower Corp microchip saying “This is the most efficient solar chip in the world … a symbol of unlimited potential that we can realize”. The chip was developed in California and manufactured in China.
Whereas the former pitch was more in the category of non-profit marketing, where the yardstick for measurement is something other than profit, the latter pitch for clean technologies fit the category of cause-related marketing where there is an expectation of a business benefit for doing good.
Overall, the message that the governor took with him was one that Californians have been instrumental in shaping. One could say that we as Californians are unique in that as citizens we conduct social cause marketing upon our legislatures. It was good to see our politician in turn take the cause on the road!


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  • green LA girl

    One thing I’m wondering is to what extent to these conversations about the environment and sustainability get edited by the Chinese government, considering the recent Google debacle?