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A Tale of Two Cause Marketing Campaigns

by | November 16, 2015

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Cause marketing is a great way to raise money for a cause and build brand recognition, for both the charity and corporate entity. These cause marketing campaigns typically involve a cashier asking customers for a donation for a specific cause at checkout. Often, paper “pinups” accompany these types of cause marketing campaigns, marking each customer’s donation and decorating the store.

The customer feels good, the company looks good, and the charity can raise tremendous amounts of unrestricted revenue. I have worked on point of sale campaigns raising a few thousand dollars to over a million. Everybody wins!

Let’s take a look at two cause marketing programs I managed. They were both national campaigns running across Canada, for the same charity, at the same time but in partnership with two different retailers. A few key differences between the two approaches to cause marketing added up to a $1 million difference in the dollars raised.

Company X: The Organic Approach to Cause Marketing

Company X believed very strongly that nobody on staff should be required to ask customers to buy a pinup for our charity. Pinups would be made available at the cash and staff would be encouraged to ask if it felt right but were never required to. They received a very informal “pitch training” from my charity at the beginning of the campaign but aside from that, the only other support was print, digital and television advertising (and lots of it). Company X had three times the foot traffic of Company Y and a large marketing budget, so the potential was huge!

Company Y: The Top Down Approach to Cause Marketing

Company Y did not believe in an organic approach. For them, the pinup campaign was like any other upsell at the cash and they added pinup sales to their weekly, monthly and quarterly metrics, which were used to measure the profitability of each store. Local and regional mangers were held to sales of pinups, as were the VPs, all the way up to the CEO who expected to achieve a pre-established revenue goal. My charity was very involved in the training, visiting floor meetings before the day started as well as providing stories to each store about our programs in their city and how they were making a difference.

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A Tale of Two Cause Marketing Campaigns: The Results!

Despite having three times the number of transactions, Company X raised about $300,000. Not bad! We had a ton of returned pinups though, which we paid to print and ship (there and back) but we still did quite well overall. Company Y, however, raised $1.2 million in the same period with less retail transactions. They had a much higher conversion rate and raised significantly more money.

Is this an argument for a strong top down approach? Perhaps. More importantly, it illustrates the fact that for point of sale campaigns to be successful it takes infrastructure, planning and a true partnership. Without proper strategy and goal setting, a point of sale campaign can be a very public failure and negatively impact your brand, your employees and your charitable partner’s impact on the community.

Which Approach to Cause Marketing Leads to Longevity?

Company Y, by the way, is still running this campaign every year while Company X has moved on to a new charity of choice. Perhaps because they weren’t getting the results they wanted, or maybe because our partnership just wasn’t strong enough. What is certain is that Company Y loves their campaign and everyone from the CEO to the high school student working the register on weekends gets on board. An engaged workforce, a strong brand and a hands-on charity allow all of this to come together. Now that’s a result worth cashing in on!