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
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:
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
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
’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
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.’
CASE STUDY: BRITISH GAS TAKES THE CARING APPROACH
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.
CASE STUDY: D&A MAKES A CHARITABLE SPECTACLE
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.’