The caring, sharing 1990s are seeing more companies realise the
commercial benefits of forging partnerships between their corporate
reputation and so-called good causes.
Cause-related marketing (CRM) offers an alternative to direct
sponsorship, it is a subtler, more cost-effective option.
’Quality and price are becoming less of an issue, so brands are looking
to create a different relationship with the consumer and give their
brand a soul’, says Impact Agency managing director Linda
The variety of guises that CRM currently takes, makes the discipline
hard to define. At its most basic, an organisation with an image or
product to sell, builds a relationship with a good cause, to both
But as the discipline has evolved, CRM is branching into new areas.
Companies are taking more risks with the type of causes they support,
while PR companies are taking control of CRM campaigns from their
inception and are even devising ’health checks’ for new companies.
Countrywide Porter Novelli, the PR agency responsible Tesco Computers,
for one of the longest-running and most successful CRM campaigns, has
pioneered the idea of health checks.
Pauline Kent, Countrywide Porter Novelli creative director says Tesco’s
Computers for Schools programme first started as a marketing initiative
but now is in its seventh year and is very much a corporate affairs and
community relations project.
Countrywide has recently established health checks for clients, to
ensure that any CRM programme is carried out with ’integrity’ and there
is no risk of back lash.
’As more companies jump on the band wagon, they need to look at the
wider implications and other areas of corporate issues,’ she says. For
instance, this spring Center Parks is launching a ’Flower Power’
programme in conjunction with a wild plant conservation charity. This
involves opening three wild flower reserves for local endangered species
at its sites at Longleat, Suffolk and Nottingham. Kent says: ’You’d
expect the PR agency to come along at the end, but we are involved with
the strategic planning and have examined Center Parks environmental
credentials very closely.’
This scrutiny can swing both ways. Suzi Morris, head of corporate
fundraising for homeless people campaign, Shelter says: ’We are very
much in favour of CRM, but we are not duped by promises of large sums of
The charity has benefited from many successful partnerships, including
BT Payphones, high street tailors Austin Reed and a three-year
relationship with Midland Bank. But, before agreeing any new
initiatives, the whole range of a potential partner’s products and
service provisions are sent to the charity’s solicitors for approval.
’When dealing with financial organisations for example, we have to check
their mortgage and repossession policies are reputable and not in
opposition to our aims’, says Morris.
But while companies are happy to link up with soft causes such as
children or animals, there is still some reluctance to take on harder
issues. Naturally, this stems from fears of alienating consumers,
employees and shareholders.
However, Countrywide’s Kent says: ’The public are not stupid, companies
may be pleasantly surprised by the reaction to a challenging cause.’
Since 1994, UDV has successfully put its Tanqueray Gin brand behind a
series of cycle rides in the US raising funds for Aids charities. In the
UK, youth travel specialists, STA Travel and The Terrence Higgins Trust
(THT) joined forces in January this year, to launch a new safer sex
At the point of sale, the travel firm is asking customers to donate a
pound to the charity, in return for a cassette, featuring comedians such
as Eddie Izzard and a THT booklet with safer sex advice for
However, other health problems are currently no-go areas. Dominic
Lennon, head of corporate marketing for mental health charity MIND says
that while companies are happy to make corporate donations, they are not
yet ready to risk their brands’ reputations. But when it happens, he
thinks partnerships will probably concentrate on the more comfortable
issues of mental health such as awareness, rather than tackling suicide
or community care problems.
Business in the Community’s (BITC) head of CRM, Sue Adkins is more
concerned about a company’s sincerity and commitment to a cause, than
whether it is addressing fundamental social issues. But she says:
’Business has to accept that a dislocated, fragmented society eventually
affects the bottom line.’
Set up three years ago to champion CRM, BITC has established a
leadership team including Cadbury Schweppes, BT, Lever Brothers,
NatWest, Tesco and Countrywide Porter Novelli. In May, the organisation
plans to publish guidelines to protect the integrity of the activity and
give confidence to both corporations and charities. ’All we need is one
cock-up to wreck the whole of CRM’, says Adkins.
As well as the principles of openness and honesty, she is currently
concerned that companies take a long-term strategic view of any
relationships. As a comparatively new concept, many companies are
setting up tentative short-term deals. ’It’s not about one night stands
it’s about commitment’, says Adkins. ’And what are people going to think
of your brand if you constantly jump in and out of bed with people?’
Recently, an increasing number of sales promotion and advertising
agencies have become more involved with CRM. In June 1997, Saatchi and
Saatchi set up ’Cause Connection’ a CRM dedicated division. But as the
technique concerns relationships and corporate reputation it seems
logical that PR people should be equally involved.
’Setting up a partnership takes a lot of thought’, says Chris Genasi, a
director at Welbeck Golin/Harris’. ’You have to put on your black hat
and consider the worst scenario.’ He thinks the responsibilities of not
being seen to ’use and abuse’ a charity and the difficulties in pulling
out of an unsatisfactory relationship add up to extreme caution. But he
sees PR bringing a more intelligent approach to CRM, through
practitioners’ skills at talking to a variety of audiences from
customers and the workforce to the media and politicians.
In the future, it seems brands will almost certainly settle down to
long-term relationships with certain causes. The market will seem less
crowded and the consumer will be less confused. In addition, both sides
of a partnership will be prepared to put more in, so get more out.
However, focus group research carried out by Research International for
BITC, reveals a problem that needs to be solved. ’The Game Plan’
published in November 1997 reports that the concept of CRM receives a
positive thumbs up from the consumer. But awareness of programmes
remains low due to the lack of effective communication.
CASE STUDY: ANDREX WINS BROWNIE POINTS FROM THE BLIND
In 1997, Kimberly-Clark decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its
Andrex puppy advertising with an on-pack promotion.
In return for six pack tokens and pounds 4.99, the public could send off
for a limited-edition Andrex toy puppy. To maximise the promotion, the
manufacturer linked the offer with raising funds for Guide Dogs for the
Blind Association (GDBA). Each token gave five pence for the charity
from the consumer, matched by five pence from Kimberly-Clark.
The two parties had worked together before, but to gain public support
at a local level, Lexis PR suggested backing the partnership up with a
national and regional PR campaign. To launch the national campaign, the
agency set up one-to-one interviews with Andrex marketing manager, Joe
Bromilow and the retail trade press. On 24 March, 1997 a photocall was
arranged at London’s Claridge’s hotel with the Andrex puppy, Bromilow
and Ann Thair, GDBA fundraising manager for Greater London. Bromilow and
Thair also conducted interviews with local radio stations, via ISDN
To gain local support, the agency invited over 25,000 Rainbow Guide and
Brownie packs to help raise funds by collecting tokens. As an incentive,
the winning packs in each region could receive up to pounds 3,000 and
the most successful child could win a weekend at Alton Towers. To help
pack leaders publicise their own fundraising events, Lexis sent out
Appeal Packs on registration, containing materials such as pro-forma
press releases and branded posters.
GDBA has eight dog centres in the UK and in April and May, the Andrex
Puppy and local Guides and Brownies took part in a series of
In other areas, the appeal was publicised by radio promotions, including
features on the work of GDBA, live interviews with Bromilow and details
of local events where Guides and Brownies were collecting tokens.
Almost 1,500 Guide and Brownie packs registered for the scheme,
collecting over 66,000 tokens - achieved through events such as litter
collections, sponsored walks and fetes. An unexpected bonus was 7,000
tokens sent in to local radio stations.
The on-pack promotion ran for eight weeks and the offer officially
closed in October. Andrex received over 220,000 applications for the toy
puppy and at the end of January this year presented GDBA with a cheque
for pounds 263,300.
The charity is pleased, not only with the money, but also with the local
fundraising links the campaign has established.
Andrex UK brand manager Andy Lewis says: ’As a brand leader we are very
conscious of our responsibility to the public. Obviously our primary aim
is to sell toilet tissue, but if we can bring benefit to the community
doing it, then we are more than happy.’
CASE STUDY: BRINGING BULLYING INTO THE FAMILY CIRCLE
In August 1997, Family Circle magazine decided that the issue of
bullying in schools affected the children of many of its readers. It
knew that charities such as Childline were working to address the
problem, but thought that it needed tackling at grass roots level.
Together with Aspect Communications, it devised a campaign called ’Be a
Buddy Not a Bully’, to promote discussion between parents, teachers and
children. It also hoped to keep bullying on the national agenda and
thereby reinforce its own ’family’ brand messages.
The campaign launched with a five-page editorial feature and
accompanying survey in the October 1997 issue of Family Circle. A
one-page questionnaire also appeared in the October issues of sister
teen titles Mizz and Shoot magazines. Selected readers were then invited
to be part of a special bullying forum and provide case studies for the
To lend credibility to the campaign, Aspect secured endorsement from
David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment; leading
children’s charities, such as Kidscape; the main teaching unions and the
National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations.
In December, a sponsorship deal was set up with drink brand Fanta, to
fund production and distribution of a special schools poster and a
high-profile media event.
On 21 January 1998, at a press launch at the House of Commons, Family
Circle presented the survey results to Blunkett. From a sample of 1,000,
main findings showed that 80 per cent of school age respondents had
suffered at least one sustained attack of bullying. Members of the
Family Circle forum and campaign endorsers attended the event alongside
celebrities, such as Brookside stars Louis Emerick and Philip
A week later, the poster featuring teen celebrities, including Liverpool
footballer Jamie Redknapp and girl band All Saints, was distributed to
the UK’s 31,000 state and private schools. It included details of
possible anti-bullying initiatives and was accompanied by a letter from
Family Circle’s editor-in-chief, Sue James, outlining the campaign to
According to Aspect, media coverage of the initiative reached an
audience of 126 million. An exclusive feature was placed in the Express
and on the morning of the event, radio interviews ran on BBC Radio 5,
LBC and London News Direct. After the event, Family Circle received over
100 calls, requesting more information and posters.
James says: ’One of our core brand promises is to campaign for family
issues. Teaming up with Fanta was the perfect way to get our
anti-bullying messages across to both children and parents.’
CASE STUDY: NORWICH UNION EMBARKS ON A FIRST AID CRUSADE
In October 1996, Norwich Union (NU) looked at ways to make its financial
services more appealing to the consumer. In particular, it was concerned
about brand awareness and frequency of contact with a significant number
of customers. For example, the company only communicates with most
insurance policy holders once a year, to renew contracts. The idea was
to develop a programme that would create public warmth toward the NU
brand and be easy to administer and sustain.
Chris Payne Associates conducted qualitative research on a variety of
proposed causes, but a partnership with St John Ambulance proved to be
the best idea. The two parties decided to launch a jointly-branded
regional TV advertising and PR campaign offering NU funded half-day
first aid courses at local St John Ambulance centres.
Quantitative research by Audience Selection and NOP showed there was a
high degree of national confusion and ignorance about first aid. For
instance, 70 per cent of respondents were unsure how to help a child who
swallowed household poisons. From these findings, Saatchi and Saatchi
developed a TV advertisement of a small girl, supposedly drinking white
spirits and showed a vox pop of opinions on what to do.
Piloted in the Granada TV area, the advertisement finished with the
correct answer and a hotline number to call to book a free first aid
To maximise the commercial’s impact, the Quentin Bell Organisation put a
local PR campaign into action. This involved publicising the results of
the survey, media training St John Ambulance spokespeople and
encouraging journalists to attend the courses.
Coronation Street’s Jack Duckworth, actor Bill Tarmey, who is a
divisional director of the charity, launched the campaign at the
Street’s own Rovers Return pub.
This resulted in widespread local press coverage including the Liverpool
Daily Post and the Manchester Evening News. St John Ambulance
representatives conducted local radio interviews and the charity’s
director of training and operations, Phillip Gee appeared on Granada’s
early evening news programme.
The campaign was so successful, that in February 1997 it was repeated in
the Anglia, Meridian and Central TV regions. In August the campaign
rolled out in the south west, Wales and Yorkshire.
Thomas Cowper Johnson, group brand manager for Norwich Union says: ’The
partnership was a real success. It was the first time St John Ambulance
had appeared on TV as a brand and the benefits of an extensive PR
campaign were mutual.’
Independent research after the campaign showed that awareness of the
Norwich Union brand had increased by 25 per cent. St John Ambulance
reported an increase in enquiries about membership and attendance of
other courses run by the charity.