Cause-related marketing has been hailed in recent years as a smart
way to engender a more caring image with consumers. Many firms are now
taking a long-term view of CRM, confident that the positive association
will boost consumers’ view of the company and its brands. But, like
public relations, it is difficult to measure.
Increasing the accountability of CRM has led to a distinct change in the
way that companies are picking their charity links. Most of the large
blue-chip companies now plan their CRM activities around one theme that
is relevant to their product.
BT, for instance, has links with charities that aid communication. One
of the newest of these is the backing of Winston’s Wish. This
Gloucester-based organisation helps children cope with the death of a
close family member, including encouraging them to talk about what has
BT has funded the appointment of a national development officer,
increasing the availability of the service, and has included an ad for
Winston’s Wish in its press campaign.
Sue Adkins, director of cause-related marketing at Business in the
Community, is keen to stress that for CRM to be trusted by a company’s
customers it must be relevant, a long-term commitment and not just a
bolt-on to other marketing activities.
’We are moving away now from the ’buy our product and we’ll give 10p to
this charity’ kind of approach,’ she explains. ’A relationship between a
company and charity has to be more than just a fling. It’s not just the
latest marketing tool which can be shoved on to the most junior member
of the marketing team to handle.’
British Gas has tackled a variety of relatively small cause-related
marketing projects in the past, but last year decided that it needed to
have more focus and a greater relevance to the business and its
After nine months of customer research, it was decided that British Gas
should be helping to cut the number of elderly people dying from cold
during the winter. It announced an initial two-year, pounds 5m deal with
Help the Aged at the end of January.
Initially, British Gas will run a home-insulation programme for older
people, fund the heating of day centres and lunch clubs as well as a
Help the Aged advice line. There is also direct help with gas bills for
elderly people most at risk.
Simon Waugh, group director of marketing at British Gas parent,
Centrica, knows that the partnership must prove its credibility with
customers before making any kind of direct product links.
’If we went straight in, obviously trying to sell more products off the
back of this venture, consumers would be rightly suspicious of us. It
needs time and a long-term commitment to create a degree of trust.’
The partnership was launched via a stunt in Trafalgar Square when
statues were covered with scarves in the corporate colours of both
British Gas marketers are still working on the details of how the
partnership will be communicated to customers, although Waugh hints that
making customers more aware of the issue could lead to some kind of
mobilising of support for the cause.
How to communicate your good works to customers can be a tough task.
For it to work, your customers must feel differently about your company
and brands as a result of the association. But the problem centres on
tackling cynicism among consumers who know what marketing is all about -
the bottom line.
Adkins advises transparency. ’You have to be upfront about the corporate
motives for what you are doing. Consumers expect you to gain from
anything you do, and look for evidence of this. If you don’t admit it
straightaway, they’ll be suspicious.’
Avon’s communication of its partnership with a breast cancer charity was
aided by the fact that the liaison was seen as relevant by its
’Research told us that the most worrying issue for our customers was
breast cancer,’ says Vicky Smith, corporate PR officer. ’One in 12 women
are struck by the disease so a sizeable proportion of our customers will
have had their lives affected by it.’
The cosmetics firm has been donating to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer
Trust since 1992, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the company chose to do
something more public to demonstrate its commitment. Avon sponsored
Breakthrough’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Appeal, giving it a
platform to advertise its five-year commitment to the charity.
’It was a strategic move to talk more about the work we had been doing,
and turn the link from a purely philanthropic venture into cause-related
marketing,’ explains Smith. ’We are saying that, as a company and a
brand, we care about what our customers care about. It’s communicating
something about Avon which is beyond price, product and service.’
Avon also gained in more indirect ways from the Fashion Targets
The model Yasmin Le Bon appeared in the charity campaign and then
featured in the Avon catalogue.
By the end of this year, companies will have another tool at their
disposal for communicating their charitable initiatives. The Media Trust
is launching a free-to-air digital TV channel - with the working title
of The Community Channel - which will feature programmes on and made by
the voluntary sector.
The Independent Television Commission has also granted the channel the
right to screen advertiser-funded programming, meaning that companies
will be able to publicise their CRM activities. The Media Trust is
talking to a number of the UK’s biggest companies about a presence on
Acknowledging publicly what you will get out of CRM is important, but so
is realising that it doesn’t always have to be of external benefit.
Sainsbury’s extensive Comic Relief activity this year, through Team LGM,
was designed partly to alter people’s perception of the store as
exclusively upmarket, according to head of in-store marketing Nick
Equally as important for a company with 127,000 employees working in 391
stores was the sense of community it brought to the firm.
’People in Sainsbury’s have always contributed to Comic Relief in
various ways - this draws all that together. It’s a team-building
exercise,’ says Adderley. The internal benefits feed back into corporate
image, helping build the right image in the long term.
Mike Thompson, account director at The Good Brand Works, is
uncomfortable with CRM activities that don’t reflect the company’s
culture. ’Companies must ensure that the sentiments behind a CRM
initiative are held at a deeper level. You increase the spotlight on
your activities and risk being branded a hypocrite if it isn’t followed
All of which still leaves the marketer with the task of proving that CRM
works, to justify the expense. Or does it? All the evidence shows that
the companies which are doing well - Tesco, with its computers for
schools programme, Avon and British Gas - had senior advocates of
These people could see that pursuing CRM as part of a widespread ethical
business policy will reap rewards for the company in the long term.
As Marjorie Thompson and Hamish Pringle note in their book Brand Spirit
(published by John Wiley & Sons): ’The charity promotion is usually
looking for a quick fix. The cause-related marketing campaign is looking
for a fundamental and long-term change in brand image and in the
approach to the tackling of a cause: it is strategic not tactical.’
So if you’re pleading for cash from the marketing coffers for a one-off
promotion, perhaps you’re going about CRM the wrong way.
- 86% of consumers agree that when price and quality are equal, they are
more likely to buy a product associated with a ’cause’
- 61% agreed that they would change retail outlets for the same
- 86% of consumers agree that they have a more positive image of a
company if they see that it is doing something to make the world a
- 73% of marketers report some level of investment in CRM
- The average total company spend on CRM has risen from pounds 275,000
per year in 1996 to pounds 310,000 per year in 1998
Source: Business in the Community
DR MARTENS BACKING FOR SHELTER
For some companies, the need for systematic evaluation of what CRM
yields is seen as less important than the activities themselves.
The R Griggs Group, owner of the Dr Martens brand, has been a family-run
firm for five generations and has always espoused supporting causes
close to the heart of its customers.
’We’ve done well because these people have bought our boots,’ explains
Andrew Borge, head of communications.
’The family have always felt that we should be giving something back -
if as a result of that our sales increase, then that’s great. But that’s
not why we do it.’
The relationship between the shoe brand Dr Martens and homeless charity
Shelter was set up three years ago.
According to Borge, the two biggest issues of concern to the brand’s
target group, 16- to 25-year-olds, are unemployment and
Linking up with a charity such as Shelter seemed a perfect way for R
Griggs to make a positive contribution to these related social
The company has organised a range of activities in support of
One of the largest ran in May last year when 20,000 pairs of special DMs
offered buyers of the boots pounds 5 off the cost of a ticket to London
musical Rent, plus a CD of highlights from the show. For each pair sold
the company donated pounds 1 to Shelter. The company also paid for a
gala night at the musical for some of Shelter’s donors.
The promotion took place via ten Shellys Shoes stores and in Dr Martens’
flagship store in London’s Covent Garden. Both stores reported an uplift
in sales during the four-week campaign.
Other activities include the company paying for Shelter’s mailings to
university students encouraging them to get involved in fundraising, and
the backing of Shelter’s celebrity CD, Gimme Shelter in 1997. R Griggs
has also organised a blanket collection for Shelter via its Dr Martens
Football League, and backed two plays by the National Youth Theatre that
This September, R Griggs is backing the charity’s Strip for Shelter
campaign, when people will donate money to come to work dressed in the
strip of their favourite football club.
’This is a long-term commitment,’ says Borge. ’It’s not just about
saying ’Here’s a cheque and a bromide of our logo, see you next
COMPUTACENTER PARTNERS NSPCC
Computacenter is working in partnership with the NSPCC for the second
year. The business IT supplier plans to raise pounds 200,000 this year
for the NSPCC and its two other corporate causes - Macmillan Cancer
Relief and Children in Need.
Although Computacenter is running a charity programme in a
business-to-business market, its objectives are similar to those of many
consumer cause-related marketing initiatives:
- To support worthwhile causes that affect its employees, customers, and
- To increase Computacenter’s public profile
- To demonstrate Computacenter’s commitment to the community among its
- To help raise staff morale and commitment through teamwork.
Last year was just the start of things and all parties believe that a
longer-term approach is required to make the most of the partnership,
both for Computacenter and for the charities concerned.
The task of securing support and commitment from customers, staff and
suppliers is being carried out through a mix of sponsored events and
employee fundraising activities.
For example, last year the company sponsored the ALFS Awards for the
NSPCC - providing corporate hospitality for the charity’s guests while
also raising Computacenter’s profile and demonstrating its community
support to customers. The NSPCC received sponsorship funding as well as
the opportunity to increase awareness among Computacenter’s
Computacenter’s customers can also see that commitment exists throughout
the whole organisation.
Throughout the year, the company held a number of staff fundraising
activities such as a Halloween ball, a hiking event and a summer fun day
for families. Computacenter matched much of the money that was
Next year, the pace is set to increase with more sponsored events for
both the NSPCC and Macmillan. There will also be more emphasis on
employee fundraising, and regional representatives from the charities
will be brought in to build enthusiasm. Overall, the charity programme
is enhancing Computacenter’s reputation and building relationships with
The key elements in a successful CRM partnership are:
- Planning and preparation. This covers the process of finding a
partner, defining the scope of the partnership and gaining
- Negotiating the partnership. This includes aligning objectives,
auditing assets, defining the nature of the activity, valuing the
opportunity and assessing the risks.
- The formal agreement. This covers some of the legal requirements,
codes, the responsibilities, and liabilities.
- Managing the programme. This highlights the project management
- Communicating the programme. This covers the delicate balance that is
required and the importance of the ’Media Test’
- Monitoring, measuring and evaluating the programme.
A full copy of these guidelines is available from Business in the
This article was first published on Marketing