Contributing to the community

Is it possible to satisfy boards and shareholders, raise brand awareness with consumers and add to your bottom line while giving back to the community?

CAUSE-RELATED marketing (CRM) originated in the US in the 1980s and is generally defined as a marketing strategy whereby a company makes a contribution, financial or otherwise, to a non-profit organisation, relying on the consumer's purchase to satisfy business objectives.

Hailey Cavill, founder of consultancy Cavill + Co, which has been advising firms on CRM for the past 10 years says CRM is one distinct expression of a Corporate Community Engagement strategy to achieve both social and marketing objectives.

"Sometimes it is about brand enhancement, other times it is about resonating with a new market or sometimes (though less and less nowadays), it's about purely increasing sales," she says.

There's a vast and important difference between CRM and charitable donation, philanthropy and even sponsorship.

"CRM is quite different from sponsorship. A simple way of looking at it is that sponsorship usually involves a company providing dollars in order for an event or activity to happen," says Ms Cavill.

"In return, the company's logo and messages are emblazoned on that activity for its audience to see. Usually it is about the company's brand being aligned with the sponsorship 'property'.

"CRM is more about the company borrowing the logo and goodwill of the cause or NPO. Sometimes a CRM will be part of a sponsorship and sometimes a sponsorship will be part of a CRM.

CRM is also definitely not philanthropy.

"Philanthropy is pure altruism - about giving without expecting a return," says Ms Cavill.

"Philanthropy is wonderful and many NPOs would not be able to do their work without it. But many corporates are moving away from pure philanthropy because - unless they have enlightened leaders and shareholders - they are seeking greater accountability for their expenditure."

She says the key to effective CRM is ensuring that a company's cause partnership is a perfect expression of the company's values and/or brand.

"It should be something that speaks volumes about the brand values, be something that staff are inspired about, is relevant and appealing to consumers and makes you stand out from the competition.

"As more and more brands become 'blands', the critical thing now is for brands to stand out and emotionally connect with consumers. Done well, CRM can achieve this," she says.

Ms Cavill says a CRM campaign is determined by the objectives of the company or brand.

So prevalent has CRM become in the marketing mix of corporations, evaluation into its measurable impact has been attempted by analysts, among them the School of Marketing at Griffith University.

In 2004, a Griffith study looked at the impact of CRM on consumer attitudes towards brands and whether they responded more positively to those who undertake CRM.

The major finding of the report was that consumers do have a more favourable attitude to CRM than other forms of marketing - like sponsorship or sales promotion - but the brand must be perceived to have a natural affinity or fit with the cause.

A powerful example is the case study of the CRM alliance between Guide Dogs Australia and the Kimberley-Clark brand, Kleenex Toilet Tissue, in the "Help us to train Guide Dogs" project.

A website, $1m TV, print and radio advertising campaign, special promotional packaging, media blitz and community service announcements were instrumental in supporting the initiative. Employees of Kimberley-Clark were involved, too. Guide dog users visited their state sales conferences to show just how their companions had changed their lives, educating and motivating the company's key brand ambassadors.

Through a concerted national campaign over six months, promoting a contribution towards the training of Guide Dog puppies, both parties achieved their social and marketing objectives - four puppies were trained to full maturity, the GDA profile was raised across Australia (with up to 35,000 new donors added to its database), Kleenex Toilet Tissue built brand awareness, loyalty and increased sales and both engaged consumers in the project via collectable plush toys offered in exchange for tokens from packaging.

KCA was successful in positioning the brand as caring and community-oriented.

Ms Cavill says the example is a solid expression of 'partnership', but warns that charities that see a corporation just as a source of money are missing the point.

"It should involve marketing, HR and up to board level to include a component of marketing, staff engagement and exchange of services, skills and goods and mentoring," she says.

GIVING back to the community can still add to your bottom line. Give a thought to getting involved with any one of these charities:

Camp Quality - Committed to bringing hope and happiness to every child living with cancer, their families and communities through ongoing quality recreational, educational and financial support programs

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
- Dedicated to wildlife conservation and welfare, with ongoing education programs, research projects and our own Community Wildlife Hospital

Abused Child Trust
- Works to break the cycle of abuse and neglect in Australia

- Supporting people with intellectual disability to be valued citizens in the community

Rosie's Youth Mission - Provides Outreach Services to marginalised, homeless, houseless and abandoned people living within the community

Salvation Army
- Helping the community in many ways from shelters, counselling, employment and aged care through to supporting those in financial difficulty, with problems of addiction or domestic violence

Variety Club
- Helps handicapped and under privileged children with any and all resources

- Provide counselling, suicide intervention

- Funding for community welfare services

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