Charity, In and of Itself, Doesn't Pass Muster
As Cause Marketers
Seek Unprecedented Brand Accountability
Cause and Effects Marketing
Though it isn't likely to steal share points from Oprah, a national
teleconference on breast cancer was a novel
of corporate philanthropy, government resources, grass-roots organization,
and out-and-out brand values strategy.
The two-hour exchange, designed
and funded by Avon Products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
and the New York
State Department of Health, linked some 25,000 physicians,
nurses, educators, religious groups and clinical workers with
a panel of
medical experts to develop cancer screening and outreach programs, particularly
for low-income, minority
and elderly women.
An ABC News correspondent moderated the commercial free satellite broadcast from PBS station WQED
showcasing Avon/CDC programs, a Latina women's group
in Chicago, and a Native American project in Alaska. There was no Avon
for its cosmetics or jewelry. Still, the event created an environment
to connect with customers.
Avon funded half the show's $600,000 production cost and its reps
served as facilitators. It was also banking on
heightened brand awareness
from media exposure, and by extension, reinforcement that Avon cares about
Welcome to cause-related marketing, where practitioners
are adopting issues to leverage corporate assets and support
Corporate benevolence roots itself in the first stirrings of the industrial
however, company conscience reflects a sophisticated distillation
of late 20th century boom and bust economic cycles:
social programs; clearer divisional lines between "haves" and
in health, education and jobs; a sensitization to
environmental issues, and political correctness, all heavily
pre-turn-of-the-21st century corporate Darwinism.
The theory behind this approach marries a product or company to a core
customer value, deepening relationships
and building strong bonds of trust.
In a world of parity products, these attributes help differentiate brands
from those of rivals. Self-serving, but cloaked in enough "do-goodism"
to win customer approval together
with sales, American corporations spent an estimated $1.2 billion on cause-related marketing events in 2015, according
to IEG Sponsorship Report. But as marketing execs look to achieve
more with downsized budgets, donations have to work
expenditures face close scrutiny; social responsibility must balance with
Starbucks promotes its relationship with CARE at retail stores with $20 sampler
packs of exotic coffees, earmarking
$2 per bag for company-sponsored efforts
to benefit coffee growers in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya and Indonesia.
American Express, meanwhile, encourages card usage during its annual fourth
quarter Charge Against Hunger, garnering
a 10% increase in transactions
last year. Nike supports Boys and Girls Clubs and incorporates the programs
national TV and print ads. "Cause-related marketing is going
from art to science and people are trying to find
better ways to measure
results " said Frank Bulgarella, president of Resource One, a cause-related
in Ann Arbor, Mich., that has developed programs for Polaroid,
Discover Card, Seagram, McDonalds and Coca-Cola.
Where companies were once satisfied with such quick-hit initiatives
as coupon drops and bike-a-thons, they're now
seeking longer-term strategic
alliances to fight drunk driving, find a cure for AIDS or tackle an environmental
"In event marketing, people used to say a company sponsored
golf because the CEO liked to play. With causes, there
are deeper issues"
said Bulgarella, a veteran of Special Olympics programs. "The link
of the cause is what
makes the sale."
Nabisco's two-year tie with the World Wildlife Fund has provided extra
fuel for its
Barnum Animal Crackers, which created a consumer
sweepstakes tied to its endangered species series,
offering kids a chance
to design a future cookie box and a family trip to the San Diego Zoo. "Kids
like animals and want us to take action on a cause that means something
to them," said product manager Lynn Exar.
Those sentiments are underscored in a Cone Communications/Roper
study of executive attitudes that found causes
gaining ground as instruments
of relationship management, whether that means broadening a brand message,
potential customers or instilling pride in employees. Of the 70
firms surveyed, 93% said they engaged in cause-related
marketing to build
relationships and solidify customer loyalty. Image enhancement, creating
a brand platform, and
product differentiation also ranked high as motivators.
Only 50% cited increasing sales as a major reason for initiating
"Companies understand that cause marketing is a long-term strategic
all about brandbuilding," said agency president Carol
Cone, who previously coined the term "passion
branding" to describe
the effect when a company embraces an issue as its "soul" that
in everything they do.
The "cause" may in fact become the product itself as seen
walking shoes or GM's Saturn cars. Both have built entire
marketing campaigns around the passionate experiences of
"They took the traits of the cause relationship and recreated it as
an auto company,"
But it would be a mistake to think consumers view these efforts as a
substitute for solid fundraising
programs, especially at a time when government
cutbacks and dwindling donations have left gaping holes in funding for
many social programs. Moreover, corporations have a leg up on some charitable
groups in the wake of high-profile scandals
that have hit the United Way
of America, and others.
"People trust us to do what's right," said Ken Barun,
at Ronald McDonald House Charities, which enlists restaurant operators
to review applicants seeking funds;
RMHC grants to kids programs, healthcare,
education and the arts total over $110 million.
McDonald's says it doesn't view RMHC as a driver of burger sales, but
1994's in-store music promotion featuring CD compilations from Garth Brooks,
Tina Turner, Elton John and Roxette generated a 5% sales jump, along with
over $9 million in donations. Barun, who is looking forward to a program
reprise next year, has been turning down thousands of proposals. "Everyone
has a widget they think can be a blowout," he said. Instead, Barun
is more likely to tighten promo links with corporate partners such as AT&T,
which donates $1 million a year in free phone service to Ronald McDonald
As with traditional marketing, it's important to designate a cause "champion,"
preferably a senior executive reporting to top management, with dedicated
resources for public relations and media. A growing number of marketers
maintain that cause-related
creative efforts should be as good, if not
better, than most corporate image campaigns.
such as Home Depot's community development initiatives
and Pizza Hut's decade-long "Book It" literacy program,
won high marks for consistency and frequency. Avon's breast cancer summit
will cap a three-year crusade that has
raised $25 million worldwide to
combat the disease and promote other women's health issues. Some $18 million
amount was rung up in sales drives of $2 pins, key rings, and pens
emblazoned with pink ribbons, which have become key
rallying points for
its 2 million global representatives. Having brought its message to some
40 million women, the
direct-sales giant, which spends $500,000 annually
on cancer awareness, wants to spread the gospel about its tactics.
"We reached a point where we have a critical mass of learning and
are very anxious to share it," said
Joanne Mazurki, Avon's director
of global public affairs, who heads the company's cause-related marketing
"We didn't want people spinning their wheels."
Of course, many causes won't hit their stride unless
they latch onto
the right partner. Dan Palotta, founder of the California AIDS Ride, was
turned away by more than
200 companies before gin maker Tanqueray jumped
aboard with a $550,000 contribution and plaudits from spokes-character
Mr. Jenkins on bus shelters, billboards and magazines.
Where more traditional brands balked, Tanqueray saw the
rides as a logical
fit with its "brilliant possibilities" campaign, from Deutsch,
N.Y., that could also help
the brand reach younger consumers. Local initiatives
turned bar nights and home fundraising parties into sampling events.
become a key element of the brand strategy that works 12 months of the
year," said Larry Griefer, Tanqueray's
vice president for public relations and entertainment
The first long-distance ride drew 478 bicyclists who raised $1.5 million
to benefit AIDS-related services at the
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community
Center. Three years later, the rides have expanded to five states, with
11,000 entrants expected to raise more than $25 million for 28 service
organizations. Tanqueray's ante is up to
$3.5 million in donations and
marketing support; Banana Republic, POZ magazine, and USAir have also joined
"If you treat it like you would any other strategic marketing program,
you can get phenomenal results,"
said Cone. "If not, consumers
say 'so what,' and it doesn't add to brand equity."
©1996/7 ASM Communications Inc. Used with permission.