Cover Story: Pay it Forward
The idea of aligning your brand with a charitable cause makes sense on two fronts: one, the obvious altruistic joy derived from helping those that are less fortunate and, two, it can help make consumers more likely to buy from you. What motivation is driving today's retailers to jump headfirst into cause-based marketing campaigns isn't of concern (let's hope it's reason No. 1). The fact is retailers are doing good for others.
Whether that's Macy's back-to-school campaign that saw the retailer donate $1 to DoSomething.org for every designated QR code that consumers scanned from within Macy's mstylelab (or juniors and young men's department) or Ikea rewarding its Facebook fans who invited their friends to the retailer's inaugural "Bring Your Own Friends Event" at its retail stores (special deals and giveaways were part of the event) with a donation to Save the Children, the common theme is retailers are attaching their marketing efforts to worthy causes.
The use of cause-based marketing seems to be working, too. Consider the following that was revealed in the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose study:
- 47 percent of consumers have bought a brand at least monthly that supports a cause, representing a 47 percent increase from 2010;
- a 39 percent increase in consumers saying they "would recommend" cause-related brands to friends;
- a 34 percent increase in consumers who "would promote" cause-related brands;
- a 9 percent increase in the number of consumers who said they would switch brands if a similar brand supported a good cause; and
- 55 percent of respondents believe CEOs need to make a long-term commitment to address societal issues.
The following pages of this cover story highlight retailers who have enjoyed success with cause-based marketing campaigns, giving further proof that this model does indeed work. There's also a handy four-step guide that can help your company decide which is the right charitable cause for it to support. With the knowledge that cause-based marketing works and the information you need to get started, what are you waiting for? It's a win-win situation for retailers and nonprofit organizations.
Using Facebook for Cause Marketing
Facebook marketing campaigns seem to be all warm and fuzzy recently as retailers are realizing that solving problems and helping those in need can be a very effective marketing tactic. The goals for Facebook cause-marketing campaigns vary: for some retailers, engagement is the goal; for others, the goal is increasing the number of in-store shoppers; and for still others, increasing fan count to their Facebook page is at the top of the list.
A retailer who successfully used Facebook to engage its fan base is Kohl's, which ran a holiday contest on the social networking site last year called "Love to Give, Happy to Save." The contest led to Kohl's giving $500,000 to charity. During the contest, which ran from Nov. 1 through Dec. 23, Kohl's 6 million Facebook fans (at the time) were encouraged to submit photos and personal stories that described the positive things that inspire them to give during the holidays. Participants first uploaded a photo and submitted a caption that shared a positive giving story. They then chose from two charities, Feeding America or Toys for Tots, they wanted to support. Fans could also vote once per day in support of their favorite photo and story from other participants. Two hundred winners were selected every two weeks for a total of 600 winners. Each winner received a $100 Kohl's gift card and the retailer donated $500 to the charity they selected.
Winners were determined by a third party who evaluated the entries based on originality, creativity and fan voting. Fifteen finalists were selected from the 600 winning fans to have their photo and story posted to Kohl's Facebook page on Dec. 16. The retailer's Facebook fans then voted for their favorite finalists from Dec. 16 through Dec. 23. The top three finalists then competed for the grand prize ($2,500 Kohl's gift card and $25,000 to award to Feeding America or Toys for Tots), the first-place prize ($1,500 Kohl's gift card and $15,000 for either of the selected charities) or the second-place prize ($1,000 Kohl's gift card and $10,000 for their charity of choice).
Facebook Promotion Decides Merchandise Winner
DollarDays International, an online wholesale distributor and closeout retailer, launched its $5,000 Nonprofit Giveaway contest on Facebook in early June. Consumers were encouraged to go to DollarDays' Facebook page and nominate their favorite charity for the chance to win one of 19 prizes, including the grand prize of $5,000 in merchandise from DollarDays.com. The contest was conducted over a three-and-a-half week period.
While the winning organizations will be chosen in a random drawing, the more nominations a charity receives the better its chances of winning. In addition to the grand prize winner, a first-place winner will receive $2,000 in DollarDays' merchandise, a second-place winner receives $1,000 in DollarDays' merchandise, a third-place winner receives $500 in DollarDays' merchandise and 15 other nonprofit organizations will win $100 in DollarDays' merchandise.
The viral aspect of the contest — it's to the benefit of those who already nominated a nonprofit organization to have their friends and family nominate the same one — helps grow awareness of the DollarDays.com brand as well as capture prospect information. The contest's entry form on Facebook asks for the nominator's name, email address, city and state. This information can be valuable to DollarDays for future marketing campaigns.
The winning charities will be given the opportunity to choose the supplies they need from DollarDays' over 225,000 SKUs. The winning organizations themselves are also potential customers for DollarDays International. The closeout retailer offers its vast inventory of goods at below wholesale and bulk prices, putting it right in the sweet spot for these cash-strapped charitable organizations.
Using Facebook as the forum for this contest was a conscious decision on DollarDays' part. The social media site has become the go-to-spot for retailers to promote their cause-based campaigns. The reason? Facebook enables your community of followers to spread the news of your good deeds — at no cost to the brand.
Facebook isn't the only channel retailers are using for their cause-based marketing efforts. Cross-channel retailer L.L.Bean, for example, is using Facebook and other online and offline channels as part of its cause marketing effort called the Million Moment Mission. The initiative is designed to encourage outdoor activity as a way to support the National Park Foundation (NPF). For every outdoor moment shared this year, L.L.Bean will donate a dollar (up to $1 million) to the NPF's "America's Best Idea" program. The Million Moment Mission is a promotion in celebration of L.L.Bean's 100-year anniversary. The campaign started on Jan. 1 and wraps up on Dec. 31.
Here's how the campaign works: any time a consumer performs a qualifying action — e.g., "liking" L.L.Bean on its Facebook page, posting a comment on its YouTube channel, checking in at one of its brick-and-mortar stores via foursquare, sending a tweet with the hashtag #LLBean100 — L.L.Bean will donate $1 to programs for kids from the NPF. L.L.Bean will also donate $1 to the program if consumers try something new at the company's Outdoor Discovery Schools, meet the company at an in-store event — e.g., L.L.Bean's 100th Anniversary Hometown Celebration in July — or join the conversation on the company's blog. The retailer is also awarding consumers with gear every day throughout 2012 in its "Get Out (Fitted) Gear Giveaway." For the giveaway, consumers are encouraged to tell the company via its Gear Giveaway website about the outdoor experiences they've always wanted to do, including describing the gear or classes that can help them get started. If their entry is selected, L.L.Bean's expert staff will create a custom prize package based on their requests. One winner per day throughout the year will receive a gear package worth up to $500.
Finally, to provide a further boost to the Million Moment Mission, L.L.Bean said it will donate $1 to the NPF for every purchase made in its stores or online from June 29 through July 8.
Toys"R"Us is another retailer that's embraced the idea of cause-marketing across channels. The toy retailer announced in January that it raised $4 million and collected 400,000 toys during its eighth annual online and in-store campaign benefiting the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation during last year's holiday season. Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal brought some star power to the campaign, which took place in the nine weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Like he'd done for the past three years, O'Neal readied himself as his holiday alter ego, Shaq-A-Claus, during the Toys for Tots campaign.
To broaden the campaign's digital reach, Toys"R"Us teamed with daily-deal site LivingSocial to spread awareness and encourage monetary donations. LivingSocial's U.S. members were asked to contribute $5 to Toys for Tots, with each individual donation then matched by Toys"R"Us with $5 worth of toys, up to $250,000. Also, Shaq-A-Claus appeared on the company's official Facebook fan pages,Facebook.com/Toysrus and Facebook.com/Babiesrus, to challenge Toys"R"Us' fans to join him in making a difference.
As these successful cause-marketing campaigns show, retailers can do well by doing good for others. By choosing the right causes that fit well with their brand identities and cultures as well as using viral marketing tools like Facebook to promote their campaigns and integrate them across channels, these retailers were able to raise awareness and funds for charities while giving their brands a boost too.
Melissa Campanelli is Editor-in-Chief of Total Retail. She is an industry veteran, having covered all aspects of retail, tech, digital, e-commerce, and marketing over the past 20 years. Melissa is also the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.
Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.