Originally created 06/27/04

Cause-based marketing often stimulates growth



One challenge every business faces is how to best spend its marketing dollars. There is an endless parade of advertising opportunities available but how do you pick the best one?

In 1983, American Express created a new marketing concept that was destined to change the parade. By offering to donate 3 cents of every dollar spent with your American Express card to the Statue of Liberty Fund, the company invented the concept of cause-based marketing. By connecting their brand to a very important cause, they differentiated themselves from their competition. They also made spending with their card a patriotic act.

Was it successful? In the year following the promotion, they experienced a 48 percent growth of new card members and a 23 percent increase in overall card use. Successful? It was a marketing home run.

Office supply stores and supermarket chains have gotten the message and from time to time offer to donate a small percentage of your purchases to a local school or food bank.

A recent client of ours had an immediate need to expand its customer base. While the client had been in business for more than 20 years and was well-known to existing customers, it was not well-known to the total customer population. This particular client was in the outdoor business and manufactured one of the finest hunting rifles in the world. We explored a cause-based marketing campaign as one of the tactics to increase customer exposure.

We located a species-specific conservation group that focused on saving habitat in the West and had more than 140,000 members, more than 98 percent of whom were avid hunters. We jointly developed a program where our client would create a special rifle for the members of this organization and donate a percentage of each sale to the foundation. It is important to note that the objective was not just to sell rifles but to introduce this client to a new group of customers.

As this was a first effort, the initial run was limited to 50 units and the advertising was limited to this group's member magazine. Our client also attended the group's annual exhibit and displayed its entire line. While it is too early to determine how successful the campaign will be, about half of the initial number of units had been sold in the three months following the exhibit.

Developing cause-based marketing programs offers an opportunity for almost any product or service. The more compelling the "cause" the more attention it will bring your business.

There are some obvious traps in this type of marketing to avoid. It should go without saying that attaching your business to a controversial cause can have a negative effect on your success.

DALE BUNCE IS THE FOUNDER OF CONSULTING FIRM INTERNATIONAL MARKET DEVELOPMENT AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF HONEYWELL-SHARECOM AND THE CHUBB COS. REACH HIM AT DALE@OPENMARKETS.COM OR (803) 642-5544.