Unsuccessful Integrated Cause Marketing


Over one billion people on the planet have no access to clean water.

This year, Levi’s has partnered with Water.org to raise awareness of global water issues; and on March 22 – World Water Day – it launched an app that promotes its Water<Less jeans, which are manufactured with a new technique that uses less water.Levis

Levi’s plans to donate $250,000, or the equivalent of 200 million liters of water, to Water.org. Levi’s also says that I could “participate by  completing simple tasks that help [me and my friends] save water and earn liters.” All I had to do “to help bring clean drinking water to communities around the water” was scan the QR code! Now I had no idea what “WaterTank” meant. But when it comes to solving global crises, I am as enthusiastic as the next guy. Naturally I scanned the QR code without thinking twice.


AND…I regretted my enthusiasm as soon as I scanned the QR. “Log in to earn your WaterTank Liters!” Again, what is WaterTank? How would I earn water by logging in? What would I be getting myself into by logging in with my Facebook credentials? Being the cautious person that I am, the lack of any useful information on the landing page was enough to steer me away.

I later located the Water<Less Facebook tab and watched the video that was supposed to explain what WaterTank is. WaterTank is a game. Participants complete simple “water-saving” challenges like pledging to conserve and helping Levi’s and Water.org spread the word. They can also track their impact and compete against their friends to see who can donate the most. It says in the video that “It’s simple! The more you do, the more you help.” It even showed on the tab that water unlocked was in the millions of liters! I desperately wanted to help further the cause. However, it remained unclear to me how I could contribute through playing the WaterTank game.

Upon further digging, I found an article on Ecouterre that clarified the mystery. Participants do not actually accomplish anything by playing WaterTank. The “liters unlocked” is essentially a meaningless number. The creator of WaterTank claimed that the campaign was one-third of the way to its 200 million-gallon goal only six days after its launch. While I appreciate the initiative, I doubt the stickiness of the pledges. The number is probably much lower in reality, and there is no way to track the result (number of gallons of water saved).

With over 50,000 page views and more than 20,000 challenges completed in its first 72 hours, WaterTank is undeniably a successful campaign. To me, however, it feels more like a shameless marketing scam that makes money on an important issue, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


2 Responses to “Unsuccessful Integrated Cause Marketing”

  1. Kelly McIvor Says:

    Well, I have to agree. This was another fail. Scanning the code – and all the potential work that entails for the never-user – results in an ambiguous venture with questionable security. Again, you lead the way with the Fail blog!

    We should talk about the ‘log in with Facebook’ option in class. There are interesting and creepy reasons to use Facebook as a sort of digital gatekeeper.


  2. Jake Stout Says:

    Hi Chin WonderGirl:

    I think I understand your skepticism.

    I’m not sure I understand the math behind the pledge:

    Levi’s plans to donate $250,000, or the equivalent of 200 million liters of water, to

    What is the cost of 200 million liters of water?

    200 million liters = 52, 910, 000 gallons of water

    The cost for water in the US on average is $1.50 per 1, 000 gallons of water.
    If they use the cost of water in other countries it will no doubt be a lot less making this the tax deduction deal of a lifetime.

    52,910,000 divided by 1,000 gallons = 52, 910 x $1.50 = $79, 365 US Dollars.

    I know the organization is supported by Matt Damon who I like immensely and I think the cause is a good one, but this seems like a total charitable tax deduction deal (there’s another word for that which you used in your blog) which yields a 30% tax break. It probably does good regardless, but you have to question the $1,000,000 in salaries, etc. it takes to move and buy water.

    Also in 2009, there were 2 donors who accounted for 46% of the income. Maybe the other one was Ben Affleck? I love these guys. Too bad they might be in hot water!


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