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Could marketing for good build better marketing teams?

Steve Walker ex CMO of Sony Mobile and founder of Two Sides

This article was originally published in the Market Leader magazine in July 2016. It was written by Steve Walker, Learning and Development Ambassador for the Agency of the Future's spin-off project Pimp My Cause.

When I was chief marketing officer at Sony Mobile, I found it comparatively easy to identify the learning and development needs of my team. However, it was much harder to find good, practical programmes that would allow them to develop their talents using real-world case studies.

So when I was introduced to Pimp My Cause through The Marketing Society’s Marketing for Good initiative, I was struck by what an opportunity their unique position – connecting the marketing profession with charities – could provide for creating talent-development programmes with a difference.

The founders of Pimp My Cause, Paul Skinner and Anna Mullenneaux, sought my advice on increasing the impact of their non-profit platform while making it more scalable and sustainable. For those of you who have not yet come across Pimp My Cause, it’s a free digital service that acts a bit like online dating to connect marketers and charities who are looking to engage in pro bono projects.

One of my professional passions is leadership development and, during an early session with the Pimp My Cause team, we identified an opportunity to create a unique type of training programme – giving corporate marketing teams from any type of business the chance to develop their capabilities by helping charities to overcome their own marketing challenges. From this brainstorming session, Pimp My Cause Challenges were born.

They offer a really hands-on way to develop marketing skills while at the same time supporting a company’s social-purpose agenda and increasing the impact of great causes. Each programme is tailor-made to fit the strategic priorities and talent development needs of the individual marketing team. Pimp My Cause specialises in finding inspiring causes with marketing needs that fit each particular Challenge, so that the causes involved take maximum advantage of the marketing support they gain and the learning outcomes are maximised for the marketers.

Over the past two years, Pimp My Cause has deployed Challenges with corporate clients such as the Nectar team at Aimia, Public Health England and Sony. Each Challenge programme is unique. For example, with Public Health England the Challenge allowed its marketing team to act as an agency for its chosen charities, providing creative campaign ideas, while gaining a better understanding of its own agency partners.

In Sony’s case, they have run two Challenges: one to improve its long-term marketing planning and the second to improve brand development capabilities. In the process, it’s given gamechanging marketing support to ten great causes.

Speaking to the causes themselves, you quickly see what a difference this support makes to them. Katie Kurilecz, communications and fundraising manager at the International Refugee Trust, summarises this perfectly: “Our Sony team helped us to refine our message and create a marketing plan that we are putting into action to engage new donors. This work is making a huge difference to the refugee families that desperately need our support.”

Through a nine-month-long innovation Challenge with the Nectar Partnerships team at Aimia, five causes have been given transformational support in developing loyalty engagement programmes. Laurence Stock, the director of partnerships for Nectar at Aimia, explains some of the benefits they have gained: “The Loyalty for Good Challenge has enabled us to mix up teams and break down any silos we may have had and also creates a flat structure so that everybody on the team has the opportunity to lead at some stage throughout the course of the year.”

The Challenges are different to other training programmes in that they provide real-world opportunities to implement the skills being developed – which makes all the difference.

As Pimp My Cause founder Paul Skinner puts it: “Working with causes gives marketers the chance to accomplish success with very scarce resources. They often feel inspired by the cause they’re supporting, which drives them to work harder to develop creative solutions to the cause’s challenges. And it gives marketers the opportunity to feel good (or even better) about their own job and profession.”

It’s been really rewarding to support the team at Pimp My Cause. By creating these talent development programmes, they are now providing a valuable resource for the marketing profession as well as making Pimp My Cause more sustainable for the long term. And it’s been immensely satisfying to see our Challenge plans successfully put into practice and making a difference to the causes, the marketers and their employers. It really is a win, win, win.

And if that’s not inspiring bolder marketing leadership, I don’t know what is.

Any marketer interested in finding a cause to support can do so for free through the Pimp My Cause website ( or, if they are a member of The Marketing Society, through the Marketing for Good initiative.

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