FOCUS: CAUSE RELATED MARKETING - May the cause be with you/Helping good causes is a win-win situation for big businesses - the charity benefits and corporate reputations within communities soar. Robert Gray reports

For anyone with an interest in seeing so-called good causes receive greater funding, one of the most heartening developments in recent years has been the growth of cause related marketing. This, at its most basic, is where a company with a product or service to sell establishes a partnership with a charitable organisation that is to each party’s mutual benefit.

For anyone with an interest in seeing so-called good causes receive

greater funding, one of the most heartening developments in recent years

has been the growth of cause related marketing. This, at its most basic,

is where a company with a product or service to sell establishes a

partnership with a charitable organisation that is to each party’s

mutual benefit.

Historically CRM has been by and large a sales promotion tool. Consumer

brands have trumpeted on pack their involvement with charities. The

mechanisms have varied - from a penny given to charity for every pack

sold to a fixed one-off donation - but the end result has been the same:

feel-good marketing.

Charities benefit from extra funds, consumers feel virtuous for

supporting them and brands gain by way of association - either by

selling in greater volume because consumers approve of the charity with

which they have been aligned or, more subtly and longer term, by having

their image enhanced in a crowded marketplace.

Examples of this kind of CRM include HP Foods’ 1995 link-up with the

NSPCC on pack for its ketchup brand Daddies and New Covent Garden Soup

Company’s carton-proclaimed support last year of both the National Trust

and charity for the single homeless, Crisis.

However, Tesco’s highly successful Computers for Schools programme

underlined that CRM need not be confined to single product sales

promotion. Now in its sixth year, Computers for Schools will before too

much longer have been responsible for putting a computer into every

school in England, Scotland and Wales.

Of equal importance as far as Tesco is concerned, it has done wonders

for the supermarket chain’s image among consumers. Although this kind of

CRM is still in its infancy some far-sighted corporations have begun to

appreciate its benefits.

Those that are really on the ball have tried to mesh it in with their

community and corporate communications activities. Computers for

Schools, for instance, began life as a pure marketing initiative but is

now ’firmly’ under the control of Tesco’s community team, says community

affairs department manager Fiona Archer.

A few other corporations have also begun linking CRM programmes with

their wider PR and community relations activities.

’Historically I would have said the impetus for CRM within BT has come

from the marketing side but there’s always been a close link with the

community affairs department,’ says Stephen Serpell, head of BT’s

community partnership programme. ’Since Christmas we have a new person

whose job is to look at and help develop CRM initiatives. That’s a

signal that we’re taking it increasingly seriously.’

BT, as befits its size, is one of the biggest corporate supporters of

community initiatives. But it is only able to take largesse so far. It

has to think of its shareholders (who want bigger dividends and profits)

and its customers (who want lower phone bills).

CRM initiatives, says Serpell, can be presented as an investment in BT’s

reputation and consequently allow it to take support of the community

further than might otherwise be the case. A good example of BT’s work in

this area is its recent link-up with charity Shelter for the BT

Payphones Give Them Shelter campaign, promoted by Band and Brown


This raised over pounds 100,000 for the charity’s Winter Nights project

through the return of old, pre-microchip phonecards that BT wanted to

get off the street and presented the telecoms company in a positive


Confectionery giant Cadbury is another corporation which has

demonstrated a commitment to CRM through its Pantomime Season and

Strollerthon initiatives.

In the process, it has made sure that its marketing-driven CRM work has

not been isolated from its broader community affairs activities.

’There’s a linkage across community affairs quite straightforwardly into

marketing,’ says Cadbury head of PR Richard Frost. ’Most CRM activity

that really gets a momentum going is something that tends to percolate

through into the organisation.’

The great champion of CRM in the UK is Business in the Community. It has

established a leadership team including BT, Cadbury, Lever Brothers,

NatWest, Tesco and PR consultancy Countrywide Porter Novelli with the

objective of promoting CRM to communicators and marketers. BITC also

organises seminars on the subject for corporations and charities.

’There’s a lot of discussion about when something stops being a

community involvement or community affairs programme and starts becoming

a CRM programme,’ says BITC director of CRM Sue Adkins. ’You might find

that an initiative started as corporate affairs but what CRM does is

give you the leverage to develop it in other areas.

Adkins is only half joking when she says a lot of her time is spent

’introducing corporate and community affairs people to their marketing

teams’. Opportunities are being missed if marketers and corporate

communicators seldom get together to discuss how a corporation’s

involvement with a charity can be positioned using PR techniques to

improve the reputation of the business as a whole.

Chinese walls separating departments need to be broken down. CRM should

be seen as paving the way for a holistic approach to marcoms and

community relations.

’It’s still early days and we’re still scratching the surface. But I

believe one day a major company will devote a large part of its

marketing to a cause campaign and will change the face of marketing,’

says Countrywide Porter Novelli chairman Peter Hehir.

Although CRM is still, comparatively speaking, in its infancy it is

clear that it finds favour among consumers. Research carried out for

BITC by Research International showed that 86 per cent of consumers

would be more likely to buy a product if it were associated with a cause

they liked.

Research International also carried out corporate research which found

that 59 per cent of chief executives, 70 per cent of marketing directors

and 67 per cent of community affairs directors believed CRM would

increase in importance over the next two to three years.

’The ball has begun rolling, but the momentum isn’t there yet,’ says

NSPCC account director for national fundraising Amanda Croft-Pearman,

who is exasperated at the sluggishness of most big corporations when it

comes to building CRM partnerships with charities. But, as RI’s research

indicates, that may well change.

’The success of CRM programmes as to how people see a company has made

corporate affairs directors wake up and say this is a very good way to

change the impression people have of our company,’ says Welbeck

Golin/Harris corporate division director Chris Genasi, who is talking to

clients about developing causal programmes.

’There seems to be more approval among consumers that it is okay for

companies to do CRM,’ says Grand Metropolitan group community relations

director Geoffrey Bush. In the US, Grand Met subsidiary Pillsbury was

one of only seven large American companies to be given a 1996 Points of

Light award (the country’s most prestigious corporate volunteering

award) for its Customer Community Partnerships programme.

The likelihood is that in future CRM programmes will be more closely

allied to the broader messages that corporations send out about


Improved global communications have exposed large multi-nationals to

public scrutiny as never before; and an expectation has grown among

politicians and the public alike that corporations should contribute to


Done well, cause related marketing is an important differentiator in a

crowded marketplace. But it must be stressed that corporations need to

share the values of their partner charities for the public not to feel

it is being cynically manipulated.

’People don’t believe that companies get involved in causes because they

want to change the world,’ says Band and Brown director Dominic


’Indeed, they may not want companies to be changing the world.

’Instead it is important to show how doing good is good for


Nobody should expect otherwise.’


In July 1996 British Gas Home Energy, now part of holding company

Centrica, launched its Charities Partnership. In essence this is a

commitment to the community, at national and local level, centring on

information campaigns for those who need them most.

The intention is to run a series of campaigns in partnership with a

variety of charities. Every campaign will deal with a different issue

but each one will have a freephone line.

The first campaign, Caring for Carers, was carried out in partnership

with Carers National Association, Family Welfare Association and

cerebral palsy charity Scope.

There are up to seven million carers in the UK and British Gas set up

the helpline to provide advice on the benefits available and where and

how to get care assistance.

The line was manned by volunteers from British Gas and its partner

charities - who earned NVQs in customer service for their pains - and

the campaign was given leaflet and PR support.

’We believed our people could benefit from involving themselves in the

process,’ says Centrica community relations manager Ian Coldwell. ’We

also took the view that as a service provider, by understanding the

issues important to our client group we can be more responsible.’ Focus

group research in the wake of the Carers campaign indicated a

’significant perception shift’ towards British Gas among those exposed

to it. ’British Gas is experienced in dealing with thousands of calls on

a daily basis,’ says Carers National Association assistant director,

public affairs Francine Bates. ’They were able to use that skill and

technology to talk to carers on a scale we just don’t have the capacity

for.’ In January this year British Gas launched its second information

line campaign Disability in Business under the slogan ’Good Practice,

Great Business’. This campaign offered advice to employers on good

business practice for disability issues.

Areas covered included the Disability Discrimination Act, guidance on

accessibility and advice on disability awareness training. Partners for

the Disability in Business campaign were RNIB, Employers’ Forum on

Disability and (once again) Scope.

In the future British Gas intends to ’graft’ further campaigns on to its

community information line.

’It’s important for customers to see us as a caring company,’ says


’We want to be a socially responsible company. But we need to recognise

there is also a business case for a lot of these initiatives.’

In addition to the PR and marketing advantages, the Charities

Partnership also puts British Gas in contact with important opinion

formers and legislators.

’We get to talk to MPs and the like that we wouldn’t normally get access

to with gas issues,’ says Coldwell.


In order to boost spectacle sales in the period before Christmas, a

traditionally flat time for high street opticians, Key Communications

suggested to client Dollond and Aitchison that it run a cause related

marketing campaign. After sounding out a number of non-profit

organisations, it was decided that the famous children’s charity

Barnardo’s offered the perfect ’fit’.

D&A pledged to donate pounds 5 to Barnardo’s for every pair of

spectacles sold during December 1996. A target of pounds 250,000 was

set, with all the money to be directed to Barnardo’s Young Carers

initiative - helping children with ’too much responsibility too


For D&A, the campaign was both a sales promotion device and a means of

positioning itself as the caring face of optical retailing, For

Barnardo’s, it offered the chance to generate much-needed funding.

’I think that companies increasingly have to demonstrate a commitment to

and awareness of the wider community,’ says Barnardo’s business

development manager Siobhan Cawley. ’They have to show their customers

they’re socially aware. I think CRM is definitely a growth area but you

need a fit that - like with us and Dollond & Aitchison - is a genuine


To promote the campaign window banners, leaflets and other

point-of-sale materials were displayed in D&A’s 430 stores and

Barnardo’s 315 branches.

The PR launch of the appeal took place at Barnardo’s central London

project and was fronted by broadcaster Anthea Turner.

To ensure strong regional coverage this was supported by a series of

photocalls up and down the country featuring celebrities appearing in

local pantomimes. There was significant coverage in both local and

national newspapers and 36 radio interviews.

The appeal was also reported in features on cause related marketing

broadcast by BBC television programmes Business Breakfast and Working


’Overall we were very pleased with it and I’d recommend something

similar for other clients,’ says Key Communications managing director

Christine Arthur. ’All the Dollond and Aitchison branches got involved.

The branch managers were ringing us, wanting to do things. So it was

good for morale as well.’ In the end, the appeal raised pounds 229,000 -

a little shy of the target but still sufficient to meet Barnardo’s

objective of funding its Young Carers programme for a year.

’It was successful on various levels,’ adds Cawley. ’Particularly so far

as we’re concerned because it made an awful lot of money, which is what

it’s all about.’

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