Tag Archives: cause marketing

To compost or not to compost

So, I was going to write an article about Frito-Lay/SunChips’ new biodegradable bag (which I purchased for the first time last week), and to initiate a discussion about whether or not, from a cause marketing point of view, the company has done a strategic job of leveraging their CSR efforts to their best business advantage.  But when I sat down to read up about SunChips’ marketing process, I learned that the biodegradable bag had been yanked due to noise levels!

Indeed, I noticed right away that the bag was noisy.  Like a freight train actually.  But as an environmentally concerned consumer, I felt good knowing that I could put the bag in my green bin. In fact – I wasn’t much of a SunChips enthusiast before the bag hit the shelves.  I bought the chips because of the bag.  And I suppose that was part of the company’s motivation for introducing a compost-able bag in the first place.  Again, as an environmentally concerned consumer, I was shocked that feedback over the bag’s noise level would have been enough to prompt an overhaul of SunChips’ heavily hyped and costly compost-able bag rollout. 

So what exactly is going on here?  Why all of the corporate flip-flopping around a fairly compelling and cutting-edge green packaging initiative?  My best guess is that Frito-Lay determined (after an assessment of focus groups and initial reactions) that the bottom line business gain resulting from their CSR efforts (after all, lots of folks like me would have probably continued buying the chips in spite of the noise) was going to be eclipsed by the broader public’s reaction to the bag’s noise level.  In other words, good business sense trumped the company’s interest in doing good

Frito-Lay is going to reintroduce a quieter version of their biodegradable bag soon enough, so they haven’t abandoned ship altogether.  But there is a fundamental lesson to be learned – that is, CSR efforts must be strategic.  They have to integrate with the bigger business picture.  They have to consider the needs and interests of target markets and corporate stakeholders.  In other words, while they have to be authentic, they ultimately have to help drive business (and certainly not undermine it). 

Sounds like basic stuff.  Also sounds like Frito-Lay learned the hard way.

Passion Points:

  • When considering a CSR or sustainability strategy, don’t lose sight of the business bigger picture
  • Consider the demographic of your key stakeholder groups – what are their priorities and interests, how will they react to your CSR platform?

Authenticity and Transparency in Celebrity Cause Alignment

Celebrities are amongst the savviest social responsibility activists.  And if celebrity is seen as a corporate enterprise, the rationale for cause alignment and CSR in Hollywood makes a lot of sense.  It can enhance reputation, drive sales, establish stakeholder loyalty and offer the opportunity to give back and make a difference in the world.  And scores of celebrities are seizing the opportunity to do just that; in fact, for some, like Bono, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Audrey Hepburn, their community work has become a critical part of their public persona.

But just as is the case in the corporate world, celebrities have to be careful about the authenticity of their philanthropic and community work.  We have written a great deal about the importance of transparency and genuineness when companies begin to develop strategic corporate social responsibility platforms, and when this piece is missing in the celebrity world, the results can be catastrophic.

Take, for instance, Lindsay Lohan.  In the past, Lohan has partnered with Angelwear in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and she has been involved with Save the Children.    Today, Lohan just completed a jail sentence after she violated the terms of her probation in a 2007 drug case.  Clearly, she herself is troubled, and while her instincts about the charities that she supported may have been genuine, from a corporate PR point of view, the cause associations probably no longer pack the same punch.

On the heels of Al Gore’s green expose, An Inconvenient Truth, the former Vice President was heralded as a hypocrite, given his own unimpressive carbon footprint.  He responded with a redoubling of his commitment to carbon neutrality (along with several ‘explanations’ for his ridiculous rate of energy consumption and use of private jets).  Today this sense of disingenuousness still plagues Gore’s reputation.

Australian singer and actress Sophie Monk has been an outspoken PETA activist and has posed naked for the organization on a poster that urges people to “Spice up your life….go vegetarian”.  Several months later, Monk was photographed with a very non-vegetarian box of KFC in hand (picture below).  It is a bit of a leap to accept that her cause alignment was truly from the heart.

Sophie Monk Enjoying KFC

Which brings this discussion full circle, since it was only a few months ago that KFC’s partnership with Susan B. Komen was characterized as insincere.  Celebrities and companies should look to one another for best practice examples of authentic, sincere and genuine cause partnerships.

Baggin’ CSR

I am a shameless handbag addict. It’s a silly vice, really. But handbags make me happy. And considering their functionality, I think that my addiction is perfectly acceptable.

In addition to all of the CSR and sustainability blogs that I read every day, I also allow myself 20 minutes each morning to indulge in The Purse Blog. And the recent post about Botkier’s generous move to donate 50% of revenues from the sale of their Joy Satchel to charity got me thinking. Can the world of CSR learn something from handbag manufacturers?

Botkier’s move notwithstanding, handbag designers have made some bold CSR decisions as of late. Louis Vuitton, arguably the world’s most iconic handbag designer, announced a few weeks ago that it had signed a five year agreement with SOS Children’s Villages to create a program called “Partnership for Children’s Futures”.  The partnership will help children who are orphaned, abandoned or whose families are unable to care for them.

Though it’s a generous move, I can’t help but find the alignment a bit strange – coming from a luxury mega-brand that charges upwards of $2,000 for some of their more basic designs. (think orphaned children in remote villages juxtaposed against the LV patchwork tribute bag – that retailed for $45,000). Perhaps LV identified mothers as a priority market, and mothers naturally care about children. In that sense, it’s a smart partnership.

Beyonce with a $45,000 LV Tribute Patchwork Tote

Beyonce with a $45,000 LV Tribute Patchwork Tote

Handbag designer Mat & Nat offers a collection of design-centric, eco-friendly, vegan handbags and their entire business model is built on a very solid and creative foundation of social responsibility. The linings of their current designs are all made from recycled water bottles, for instance.

So I think that my handbag indulgence has taught me valuable lessons that can be transferred to the professional world of CSR.

Passion Points:

• Giving back is a universal notion that has become a baseline standard even in luxury markets

• Think about causes that will resonate with your customers and target markets

• In a best case scenario, establish a business model that aligns seamlessly with a CSR mandate

Cause Splash vs Cause Marketing

The not for profit world has been abuzz in the past few weeks about a cause marketing campaign gone bad. While bloggers and pundits (here’s a good  example) have been quick to lambaste the charity for its lack of judgment, the real issue is that the company opted for cause “splash” and not more strategic cause marketing/CSR decisions.

Here’s the background. Susan G. Komen For The Cure – this is the organization that pioneered the pink ribbon campaign in support of breast cancer research – entered into a cause marketing initiative with KFC. In a program called Buckets for the Cure, KFC is donating 50 cents for every “pink” bucket of chicken sold and is aiming to make the largest-ever single corporation donation (over $8.5 million) to breast cancer research. The problem is that one week after launching the campaign, KFC introduced a new product called the Double Down sandwich  – two pieces of fried chicken, bacon and cheese. The critics jumped on KFC for promoting an extremely unhealthy food product that can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for breast cancer.

It is worth pointing out that despite furor in the blogosphere, to date the campaign has raised over $3.7 million and the website has inspired many people to share their breast cancer stories.

The real problem here is that KFC made a bad decision in its choice of cause marketing campaigns. The criticism of the campaign was foreseeable, particularly because KFC obviously knew when they were launching the Double Down sandwich. What’s even more striking is that the campaign doesn’t align with KFC’s business model. While it provides some temporary splash, in a year it will be forgotten because it really has nothing to do with what KFC does for a living. Contrast this campaign to other initiatives that are part of KFC’s CSR platform. The Colonel’s Scholars program provides scholarships enabling young people to go to college. This makes sense because KFC employs large numbers of high school students and the program aligns with founder Colonel Sanders’ legendary entrepreneurship; it focuses on “dreams and aspirations, and the perseverance to succeed.” KFC’s Animal Welfare Program is also well aligned providing expert oversight of the company’s practices and a supply chain component that includes farm audits.

Other examples of recently announced cause marketing campaigns illustrate the power of aligning with the corporate business model. Huggies (the diaper brand) has launched a program/site called HuggiesMomInspired.com through which it will provide venture capital to entrepreneurial moms.  Read more about it at http://bit.ly/d7QXty.  Barnum’s Animal Crackers recently launched a campaign that will see them raise funds to protect the endangered Asian tiger and raise awareness about endangered species.

Well-aligned cause marketing campaigns are more powerful because they become part of an integrated Corporate Social Responsibility platform. They provide greater opportunities for stakeholder engagement and are more enduring. Ultimately, they enhance the brand while allowing businesses to be good corporate citizens.

Passion Points

  • Cause marketing campaigns should align with your business model and should be just one element in an integrated and strategic CSR approach.
  • The most effective causes will relate to the products that you sell, the service that you provide, your articulated business philosophy or perhaps even personal philanthropic efforts of owners/executives.
  • Ensure that any upcoming marketing efforts won’t diminish the impact of prospective cause marketing campaigns.
  • Choose cause marketing campaigns that provide opportunities for employee engagement.

An Apple A Day

I’ve always been a fairly devoted PC user, but two weeks ago, after soliciting feedback from all of my Apple-savvy friends, I bought my first Mac. And I have to admit, my new Macbook Pro laptop is impressive.  The applications are user-friendly, everything is sleek, and the system operates at lightning fast speed.  It weighs next to nothing; it is virus-resistant and even my children think it is ‘beyond cool’.

But perhaps most intriguing to me is the very strong way in which the Macbook integrates with Apple’s CSR platform.  And as a consumer, I have been engaged by Apple as a partner on that journey – and I feel pretty good about that!  My new Macbook is highly recyclable, it boasts a longer-lasting battery, it is more energy efficient and even earned a ‘Gold’ label from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).  By ensuring that their product meets these high environmental standards, Apple has empowered me to reduce my own carbon footprint.

Five years ago, were computer owners even considering the environmental impact of their computer use?  Certainly car owners were becoming informed along these lines, but computers seem on the periphery of this movement, to some degree.  Apple’s very aggressive campaign signifies to me that the importance of a strong CSR platform has become a standard, no matter the industry.  Everything from coffee to make-up, cell phones to pet food are all being marketed with CSR goals and drivers in mind.

Apple serves as a best practices model since they have not only developed environmentally friendly business standards to herald as a selling feature, but the very product that they are selling empowers the consumer to make environmentally responsible choices – watch this commercial

This is the best possible integration of CSR values with a company’s business model.

So what can other business owners learn from Apple’s example?

Passion Points:

  • No matter the industry in which you operate or the size of your business, you should be thinking about your Corporate Social Responsibility platform.
  • Consider whether or not you are manufacturing your product in a manner that considers environmental impact.  For instance, can you reduce packaging and use ‘green’ packaging materials?  Is your product recyclable?  Can you eliminate or reduce the use of harmful toxins?
  • Make sure to share your company’s ‘green’ choices with its stakeholder groups as a selling feature.  Consumers care about your environmental practices and they should be made aware of your company’s policies and practices.
  • If your product or service cannot be ‘greened’, consider what your company can do operationally to reduce its carbon footprint.  Can you reduce paper use?  Can you encourage ‘remote’ meetings to cut down on business travel?   Do you have policies to ensure that computers are turned off?  Do you use energy efficient lighting and power sources?

Technology reveals cause marketing truths

CauseWorld is a new iphone app that combines the cutting edge of location-based marketing with the power of cause marketing. Its newest initiative reveals the degree to which consumers want to be engaged and the importance that smart companies are placing on brand reputation.

Using GPS technology, CauseWorld provides you with a list of nearby participating retailers. By visiting the retailer and “checking-in,” users earn “karmas” that they can eventually direct to one of 15 causes. Companies like Citi, Kraft and Proctor & Gamble provide the funds that turn karmas into dollars for the causes. In exchange for their support, the companies are provided with opportunities for advertising and branded statements.

CauseWorld’s newest initiative allows users to earn karmas by scanning the bar code on consumer products like detergent, deodorant and mayonnaise. And that’s the part that is so incredibly revealing.

First, it demonstrates the degree to which consumers want to be engaged. The app requires the user to go out of their way to check in to a retailer or to scan the bar code on a product that they may or may not be buying. And to date over 300,000 people have downloaded the app and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been directed to the charities involved. The fact that users can direct their support to the cause of their choice obviously heightens the appeal but its still fascinating that so many people are prepared to go out of their way to do good.

Secondly, the companies involved clearly see the tremendous brand enhancement that is derived from participating in the program. Think about it. Kraft will donate money because someone picked up a jar of Miracle Whip and scanned its bar code whether or not it results in a purchase. But don’t for a moment underestimate the importance of the advertising and branded message opportunities that are part of the program.

While it would be easy to dismiss this as a world in which only hip iphone users and huge consumer goods companies get to play, any business would be smart to carefully consider what this means to the importance of CSR initiatives.

So, what can you be doing? Here are some Passion Points:

  • Develop ways in which customers or prospective customers can be engaged in CSR efforts. Allow them to choose causes to be supported. Provide opportunities for customers to have specially guided visits of participating organizations. Provide customers with login access to special sections of the causes’ websites.
  • Recognize how vital the brand enhancement derived from cause marketing can be to the competitive position of any business. More and more studies indicate that consumers make buying decisions based on their perception of a brand’s CSR efforts. At the same, ensure that your involvement in any cause marketing initiatives provide abundant opportunities for advertising, pr and media exposure. CSR efforts can be a key driver to improved business results but only if consumers know about them.