Cause marketing programs are taking on new significance in this economy, as brand owners strive to broadcast their corporate principles, create closer relationships with consumers and offer the idea of greater brand value.
In the current economy, people definitely “vote with their dollars,” says Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s grand poobah of PR (his actual title). Consumers may not be able to make financial donations to charities and other nonprofits as they have in the past, but they will make a conscious purchase, Greenwood says. “I don’t think that’s uncommon for people today.”
To stimulate consumer and shopper response to cause marketing efforts, brand owners like Campbell Soup Co. and Procter & Gamble are increasingly turning to package design
“[It’s] a versatile, cost-effective medium for communicating the corporate-nonprofit association,” says packaging consultant Sterling Anthony. Though cause-related marketing is best used to “break a tie” among brands, he says.
“The brand should at least have parity with the competition in terms of quality and value, after which cause-related marketing is one of a variety of differentiators that can break that tie,” Anthony explains.
For Ben & Jerry’s, cause marketing and social activism are nothing new. The ice cream company has been active in causes ranging from Bovine Growth Hormone-free dairy farming to fair trade coffee bean production since its beginning in 1978.
The company’s activism “gives people another reason to say ‘I can support these folks because I know they are trying to do good as a business,’” says Greenwood.
Take the company’s support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). Last year, Ben & Jerry’s developed a special ice cream flavor, Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road, before Elton John’s first-ever concert in Vermont. The company sold the flavor only in its Vermont scoop shops, with 100 percent of the proceeds-more than $11,000-going to EJAF.
This year Ben & Jerry’s took the ice cream national as a Limited Batch flavor, using packaging that incorporates the EJAF logo and explains that a portion of product proceeds benefits the foundation.
ENGAGING THE CONSUMERIncreasingly, marketers are devising ways to motivate consumers to support the cause even after making the purchase. Here, too, packaging is playing a pivotal role.
To participate in Yoplait USA’s Save Lids to Save Lives program, consumers mail in the lids and foil liners they’ve saved from pink-lidded Yoplait products, sold each year during the months of September and October.
For every lid mailed in, Yoplait then donates 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Last year, the company received enough lids to meet its $1.5 million donation goal. And since the program started in 1999, the brand has generated $22 million in donations for the organization.
“We’ve been giving people a simple way to get engaged in a cause they care about,” says Pam Kermisch, director, Yoplait Integrated Communications. “By peeling off and mailing in lids from our yogurt cups, they are actively engaged in joining us in the fight against breast cancer. [The initiative] provides an easy way for consumers to continue supporting the breast cancer cause, despite the current economic environment.”
Across the Atlantic, Innocent Ltd. encourages creative participation in its cause marketing effort, The Big Knit, by asking consumers to knit “wee” hats to cover the caps on its smoothie bottles. Knitters throughout England make the hats and mail them to the brand.
Innocent’s retail partner, Sainsbury’s, sells the hat-wearing bottles for four to six weeks starting in November. For each bottle sold, 50p (roughly 80 cents, USD) is donated to Age Concern, an organization that aids elderly British citizens. Innocent has run The Big Knit since 2003, and the number of contributions has continued to grow-last year, the brand received a remarkable 500,000 hats.
“What makes The Big Knit stand out is that it works at every level,” says Gurdeep Loyal, Innocent’s Big Knit marketing manager. The knitters get a chance to help the community, the Age Concern centers raise their profile and Sainsbury’s gets to show its charitable side, Loyal says. “We see it as a great and very ‘innocent’ way to give something back and to surprise consumers who spot the little hats in the chilled juice aisle.”
PLANTING A SEEDOver in the soup aisle, Campbell’s made a stir this spring with a striking special-edition label for its tomato soup. The brand replaced the familiar red color band on the label with a close-up of a juicy, red tomato, making a bold visual statement that promoted its “Help Grow Your Soup” campaign while reinforcing the quality of the ingredients used to make Campbell’s condensed soups.
The program, which ran from March 15 to June 21, gave consumers the opportunity to receive tomato seeds and also donate seeds to the company’s nonprofit partner, the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America).
Designed by Anthem Worldwide, the label shook up the iconic package’s design enough to catch consumers’ attention-but without confusing them.
“We needed to keep the design in the same visual arena as the regular label but tweak it enough to make our additional point,” explains Chip Heim, design manager, condensed and premium soup, Campbell Soup Co.
Text on the back label explained that Campbell has been cultivating seeds for tomatoes used in its soups for more than 70 years. Consumers were urged to visit the Help Grow Your Soup website, where they could enter a code printed on the can to receive a packet of seeds. For each packet requested, Campbell donated 100 seeds to FFA. In total, Campbell donated 22.5 million seeds.
The special-edition packaging also played a unique role in generating media exposure for both the brand message and the Help Grow Your Soup program.
“Our tomato soup achieved iconic status long ago. Today, it represents both Americana and American pop art,” says Campbell’s brand manager Jared Susco. “Altering the package helped make our product the clear hero of our public-relations effort and simultaneously helped us achieve our ultimate goal of improving consumer quality perceptions through a focus on our ingredients.”
SOAP AND WATEREqually dramatic is the yellow-capped bottle created to promote Tide laundry detergent’s Loads of Hope program, which dispatches a “mobile laundromat” fleet of vans to provide free laundry service to families and relief workers following major disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the recent California wildfires.
The Loads of Hope package, which launched this year, marks “the most significant change to the Tide packaging in the history of the brand,” says Kash Shaikh, Tide external relations manager, Procter & Gamble.
The new package is sold in 50- and 100oz sizes and features a distinctive yellow cap and original graphics, including a front label that presents a photo montage of disaster survivors and the Loads of Hope program name explaining that a portion of product proceeds goes to disaster relief.
Ten cents from the sale of each Tide yellow-capped bottle is donated to Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), which has partnered with Tide brand owner Procter & Gamble on the project. To date, the brand’s Loads of Hope initiative has washed and folded 30,000 loads of laundry for 25,000 families.
The cap bears the message, “You can help,” and directs consumers to the Loads of Hope website where they can enter a code printed on the cap to send encouraging messages to people recovering from disasters.
Beyond providing disaster survivors with one of their most basic needs-clean clothes-Loads of Hope builds brand value. Consumers “believe the purchase of Tide is an overall better value because of the dual benefit they get from buying the product and supporting a cause they believe in,” says Shaikh. “It’s a great way to bring the vision and equity of the brand to life.”
O.N.E. partnered with the BrazilFoundation on the six-month project, in which a percentage of the proceeds from the limited-edition packages went to Brazilian water projects. Pop artist Romero Britto created two designs for the special packaging, one for the 11oz size and another for the 1L.
This year O.N.E. launched a more ambitious cause marketing program, once again featuring the aseptic Tetra Pak package. This time the product is O.N.E. Natural Spring Water, and the company is donating 100 percent of the product’s profits to charity. The program is a permanent addition to O.N.E.’s business model.
Package graphics include the company’s Profits to Charity logo on the front; the back of the 500mL carton invites consumers to visit the O.N.E. website, where they can vote for one of 10 nonprofits to receive a donation.
“We are overwhelmed with the acceptance for the project,” says Rodrigo Veloso, founder and CEO of O.N.E. World Enterprises. He characterizes it as a “win-win” for all involved: Consumers appreciate the opportunity to contribute, the nonprofit partners receive support and “as a for-profit company, we benefit from it, as well, as more and more consumers get exposure to our brand.” BP
Where to go for more information…
Kari Lewis at Anthem Worldwide (973.527.8100, www.anthemww.com)
The Sterling Anthony Consultancy (313.531.1875, www.pkgconsultant.com)
Tetra Pak (847.955.6000, www.tetrapak.com)