Cause Related Marketing: Brand values can build on charity ties - Building long-term relationships with charities that complement your brand will generate more mutual benefits than a one-off link

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.

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.

Different approach

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

the channel.

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


Community efforts

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

better place

- 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


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

featured homelessness.

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 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


The future

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



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