Caribou Coffee works green thumb to raise funds for cancer

Caribou annually honors Amy Erickson, an original roast master who died of breast cancer in 1995, by selling Amy's Blend coffee.

Client: Caribou Coffee (Minneapolis, MN)
Agency: Exponent PR (Minneapolis, MN)
Campaign: Amy's Garden
Duration: October 2010 to May 2011
Budget: $100,000

Caribou operates 544 coffee houses in 15 states. It annually honors Amy Erickson, an original roast master who died of breast cancer in 1995, by selling Amy's Blend coffee, tea, and merchandise during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Ten percent of Amy's Blend sales and $1 per bag of coffee sold to retail partners is donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

AOR Exponent PR helped devise last year's “Amy's Garden” campaign, which centered on planting two commemorative pink tulip gardens in leading Caribou markets.

Caribou brand communications director Sarah Townes says tulips were Amy's favorite flower and the garden concept provided a fresh way to engage customers and drive sales. The team sought to raise an all-time high of $200,000 for Komen.

Customers dedicated a tulip to someone affected by breast cancer online and in stores. One bulb for each dedication was planted in gardens in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Tom Lindell, MD Exponent PR, says leveraging Caribou's personal tie to breast cancer helped break through clutter.

Media relations and social media engagement also drove participation and sales.

Customers dedicated tulips on a microsite. Posts included messages to and photos of the affected loved one. In stores, customers wrote dedications on pink paper tulips and posted them on the community board.

The Minneapolis garden was planted October 13 at the Mall of America, the host site of the May 13 Twin Cities Race for the Cure. The Chicago garden was planted October 26 at the Shedd Aquarium. Caribou employees, partners, and Komen representatives planted each garden in the shape of the Komen ribbon.

Media, Amy's family and friends, community leaders, and local celebrities were invited to both events.

Consumer outlets and restaurant and hospitality trades were targeted in October and May, when the flowers bloomed.

Updates and photos of the planting events and blooming gardens were posted on Facebook and Twitter and sent to 450,000 email subscribers.

Caribou made the $200,000 donation goal (up 30% from 2009). Sixty thousand tulips were planted in both gardens. Amy's Blend coffee sales increased 13% and merchandise sales increased 21% compared to October 2009.

October website traffic was up 24% compared to 2009. Ten thousand tulips were dedicated online. Combined Facebook and Twitter reach topped 212,000.

The campaign garnered nearly 10 million impressions in October, and about 30 million to date, in outlets including the Chicago Sun Times and Fox Sports.

The team is planning this year's campaign. Townes says it'll include a fresh iteration of the tulip concept.

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