It’s one of the great marketing dilemmas for modern-day
multinationals: how to be a corporate giant while still achieving a
positive perception among consumers. Procter & Gamble clearly thinks it
might have the solution. It is exploring the possibilities of links
between its house-hold brands and good causes across Europe (Marketing,
It seems likely that, in Europe at least, P&G will focus its new
cause-related marketing(CRM) activity on linking individual brands,
rather than its corporate identity, with environmental causes. The logic
is simple: for all its business strengths, P&G is not renowned for its
openness or high public profile. Consumers build trust and relationships
with P&G’s brands, such as Ariel and Daz, rather than the corporate name
Steve Hilton, a partner of social marketing agency Good Business, says:
’If a company is building a credible case for becoming involved with
social issues, it should see it as part of a brand-building project.
It’s brands that people trust. Perceptions of multinational companies
themselves can be very negative.’
Owners of FMCG brands can derive real benefits for brand reputation on
the back of a CRM strategy. P&G’s rival, Lever Brothers, has developed a
CRM plan for Persil washing powder over a number of years, which goes
beyond simple on-pack promotions. Instead, the Persil Funfit programme
is creating resource packs for teachers to help them boost children’s
fitness through PE lessons, links with the Early Learning Centre and a
strong focus on the CRM activity in its advertising.
Tesco’s Computers for Schools, which has been running for seven years,
is another example of an effective, long-term CRM strategy.
Sue Adkins, director of cause-related marketing at Business in the
Community, says: ’CRM is not about a one-night stand but about a
The charity or cause, the business and the stakeholders should all reap
mutual benefits. CRM must be planned, implemented, communicated
appropriately, monitored, measured and evaluated, if the full potential
is to be realised.’
There are signs that P&G is taking this on board, particularly in Asia,
where it is linking with children’s charities Unicef and Save the
In some cases, it is still wedded to one-off donations to charity and
one-off pack promotions, such as a Pampers promotion in the US last
month, which involved a portion of the purchase price going to
children’s charity Give Kids the World.
P&G’s recent restructuring along product lines, rather than four
geographical regions, also means that its CRM strategy varies from
division to division.
Its household goods division in Europe, for instance, is obviously keen
on CRM, but other divisions seem more reluctant. A P&G spokesman said:
’Each brand looks at how CRM might fit into its strategy.’
For instance, Saatchi & Saatchi Cause Connection had been working on CRM
ideas to support the Sunny Delight brand in the UK. Despite its massive
success, Sunny Delight has attracted heavy fire for its alleged lack of
nutritional content. Cause Connection developed ideas including a link
with anti-drugs charity Action on Addiction, but these have not been
taken up. The CRM strategy would have involved distributing interactive
games to schoolchildren to illustrate the negative effects drugs have on
P&G is believed to have rejected this idea as ’too negative’ and remains
committed to a programme of UK basketball sponsorship for the brand.
P&G may be right to exercise caution in such sensitive cases: research
shows that though CRM activity can benefit a brand, it can also
A survey last year by brand company Corporate Edge showed 65% of
consumers view corporate support for green issues to be a cynical
Some 60% felt that Van den Bergh’s Flora promotion, using Princess
Diana’s signature, was a bad idea. Mintel research from last year, based
on a sample of 1492 adults, showed that 60% of consumers think that
companies are cashing in with cause-related marketing schemes.
Set against this is 1997 research from Business in the Community,
entitled ’The Winning Game’, which shows that 86% of consumers agree
that they would have a more positive image of a company involved in
Adkins says: ’Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and cynical. They
expect business to behave in a socially responsible way. This
responsibility is deemed second only to government and above that of the
church, other religious organisations and the charities themselves.’
The message is clear: higher standards are expected of businesses. They
are expected to perform in an ethical and open fashion. CRM can be a
good way of pushing this message, but experts warn that it has to be
backed by a genuine effort within a company to behave ethically.
Hilton says: ’There are huge dangers in running CRM activity. Businesses
must demonstrate a consistency in their operations. You can’t treat your
employees like dirt and then go around saying you’re a nice guy because
of your CRM activity.’
Rushing into CRM activity could be difficult for firms like Nike,
accused of poor labour practices in Asia. However, the threats to a
company such as P&G, where its brands are more powerful than its
corporate name, may not be so obvious.
But, as it puts more resources into CRM activity, P&G must be hoping
that damaging incidents, such as the scandal in 1981 involving its
tampons and toxic shock syndrome, and the more recent allegations of
corporate identity links to Satanism, do not blow up once more.