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PG Web Extra: Cause Marketing 101


Supporting a cause at retail is all very well, but what should grocers know going into such a venture?

“Before deciding what group to partner with, grocery executives should set clear, prioritized business-related program objectives,” recommends David Hessekiel, founder and president of the Rye, N.Y.-based Cause Marketing Forum, which provides businesses and nonprofit organizations with the information and connections they need to form alliances. “Is your No. 1 goal building customer loyalty, increasing employee retention, attracting new customers, driving traffic to new locations, distributing coupons, building awareness of new offerings, etc.?”

Continues Hessekiel: “Once you’ve identified what you want to achieve from a business perspective, you’ll be better able to identify the cause you want to get involved with, and from there analyze which groups in that space have the capabilities that would make them the best partner for you.”

For example, he notes that “if a grocer needs to attract and retain new entry-level employees, it might decide that it wants to focus on an education-related or job training-related cause and partner with local schools, a youth organization (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs of America) or an occupational training organization (e.g., Goodwill).”

“What are [retailers’] highest-priority charitable causes?” asks David McConnell, president and CEO of Colorado Spring, Colo.-based making change, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that collaborates with thousands of retailers nationwide on point-of-purchase fundraisers, adding: “It helps if a company develops a platform of support around a set of key causes throughout the year, quarterly or monthly: hunger relief, schools and education, health and wellness, the environment, etc. They can be tied to national efforts like National Hunger Action Month, or National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or something more localized to their store operating areas and communities — or a mix. Grocery stores don’t just sell food, they sell brands that contribute to health and wellness, school/educational products, and encourage environmentally friendly consumer and company practices.”

According to Hessekiel, the success of such an effort will depend on the following:

  • Proper training of front-line employees to engage with consumers
  • Communications and incentives designed to build employee enthusiasm for the program
  • Integration of the ask into electronic point-of-sale systems to supplement the human ask (this has dramatic impact on funds raised, but requires a major IT investment that not all companies have been willing to make)

With the proper preparation, he believes that “the future of cause marketing [in] supermarkets is bright for companies that embrace the opportunity to create programs that bring them closer to their communities, consumers and employees.”

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