Why it’s good business for retailers to do good
While cause marketing — i.e., retail-driven marketing that benefits a nonprofit organization or supports a social cause in some way — isn’t new, it seems as though it’s in the midst of a rebirth. In fact, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report, corporate cause marketing programs will grow 3.7 percent in 2016, reaching $2 billion in marketing spend.
While millennials may be driving this surge, the desire to support worthy causes stretches across all ages and demographics. Ninety percent of all consumers, for example, said they were likely to switch brands to one that puts money into a worthy nonprofit organization, according to Cone Communications/Ebiquity’s 2015 Global CSR Study.
Here are a few examples of recent cause marketing campaigns that benefited both the retailer and the nonprofit organization.
The Bon-Ton Stores: ‘Celebrate Mom! Love. Gift. Repeat’
This past April, Bon-Ton Stores and digital marketing solutions provider HelloWorld launched a campaign called “Celebrate Mom! Love. Gift. Repeat,” a days-of-giving sweepstakes in honor of Mother’s Day. The March of Dimes, an organization that works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality, was the nonprofit that Bon-Ton partnered with for the nearly three week campaign. Bon-Ton pledged to donate up to 5,000 baby product essentials from Carter’s, AD Sutton & Sons, and Little Me, including clothing, blankets and accessories for local March of Dimes chapters when the sweepstakes hit 5,000 entries.
“Caring is one of our core values at Bon-Ton, and corporate social responsibility in our local communities has always been an important pillar of Bon-Ton initiatives,” says Tiffany Cooley, vice president of marketing for The Bon-Ton Stores. “The ‘Celebrate Mom! Love. Gift. Repeat’ campaign was a great opportunity to encourage consumers to interact with our brand and explore Bon-Ton’s gift assortment, while also supporting families and the March of Dimes.”
Shoppers were encouraged to enter the sweepstakes via the websites of any of the Bon-Ton family of stores: Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers. Registrants could win prizes each day, as well as the grand prize of all 20 featured prizes awarded at the end of the campaign. The campaign also offered consumers a Mother’s Day gift guide inspired by different lifestyles — e.g., the mom who “has a new baby,” the mom who “loves to cook” — which made easier the gift-giving process for this year’s holiday.
“We formatted this initiative as a days-of-giving gift guide to assist Bon-Ton shoppers in finding inspiring gifts for moms based on their personality types and specific interests,” notes Cooley. “The ‘Celebrate Mom!’ campaign helped shoppers easily find the perfect gift available at their nearest Bon-Ton store or online, whether it was for a mom “who loves to cook” or a mom “who hits the gym.”
The “Celebrate Mom! Love. Gift. Repeat” campaign was conducted online only, “but it was mobile optimized, enabling consumers to easily access and navigate the sweepstakes on the go, whenever they chose, which was key in maximizing reach,” says Jen Gray, senior vice president, brand, marketing and creative services, HelloWorld.
Spreading the Word
Bon-Ton used a number of marketing channels to increase awareness for its Mother’s Day campaign, including print ads, in-store signage, emails and digital ads. Messaging throughout the Mother’s Day gift-giving season was also targeted based on demographic, life stage and personal interests, Cooley says.
Social media was also a big part of the “Celebrate Mom!” campaign. For example, sweepstakes participants were encouraged to share the gift ideas they discovered on the family of Bon-Ton websites via Pinterest.
“Consumers could pin gift guides directly to their personal Pinterest boards or choose to pin their own images for additional sweepstakes entries,” notes Gray. “Entrants could also post their participation directly to Facebook.”
This isn’t the first time Bon-Ton has partnered with the March of Dimes. In fact, the retailer has donated $1.2 million to the nonprofit organization in the last three years through in-store charitable promotions and the March of Dimes Walk for Babies.
The March of Dimes isn’t the only nonprofit that Bon-Ton works with, however. Another cause marketing initiative for Bon-Ton is its Goodwill Sale, a collaboration with Goodwill Industries that’s run for 22 years. This particular campaign is recognized as the largest, longest standing department store donation drive.
During the semi-annual event, Bon-Ton customers and associates donate gently used apparel at Bon-Ton stores and in turn receive special coupons on new seasonal merchandise. Since its inception, the value of donations received at Bon-Ton stores and resold in Goodwill stores is more than $270 million. The money raised is used to support job training and services to help people find jobs in local communities, Cooley says.
Bon-Ton also has run cause marketing campaigns to support breast cancer research, Boy & Girls Clubs of America, and its Community Days event has helped tens of thousands of local nonprofit groups and schools to raise over $133 million since 1999.
“These programs and others are an important part of Bon-Ton’s hometown commitment to making a meaningful impact in the community,” says Cooley.
Rachel Roy’s Kindness is Always Fashionable Initiative
Another impressive program comes from the fashion designer and entrepreneur Rachel Roy, who is integrating cause marketing into her brand with the Kindness is Always Fashionable initiative. For the initative, the fashion brand has collaborated with the likes of Lauren Bush and Martha Stewart to help achieve the Kindness is Always Fashionable mission — to empower women around the world.
“Giving women an opportunity to work is my life’s work,” Roy said on her website, RachelRoy.com. “It leads to stronger communities, families and voices. It gives women a freedom that can only come through providing for yourself.”
The Kindness is Always Fashionable initiative focuses on working with women artisans around the world to help create jobs and give back to communities. The program specifically targets global communities in need. For example, some of the products created were born from Roy’s collaboration with Lauren Bush and her organization Feed Projects, which sells FEED bags with a portion of each sale donated to the United Nations World Food Programme. The collaboration includes a Feed India tote, the sales of which helped to give away 200,000 meals to schoolchildren in India.
There’s also a travel piece set Roy designed with Piece & Co., a producer of artisan-made products and accessories for designers and retail brands, with the sales of the set earmarked to help artisans and their families in India and Guatemala. The sales of products bearing Roy’s designs have also helped communities in Haiti, Japan, Africa and Pakistan.
The primary ways Roy’s Kindness is Always Fashionable message reaches consumers is through engaging content on its website as well as social media posts.
“We help to empower these women and provide for their families to contribute in a greater way to their community,” says Lisa Dominish, director of e-commerce at Rachel Roy. “We’ve had a lot of product collaborations through Kindness is Always Fashionable to support the mission and communicate their story through rich and engaging content.”
Each product featured on the Kindness is Always Fashionable section of the Rachel Roy website is paired with a video that tells the story of the charity and community impacted. Details such as how much money was donated and the number of media impressions the product was able to generate are shared. The value of the media impressions is in helping to create a much-needed conversation around giving back to those in need.
Rachel Roy further promotes giving back on its lifestyle blog, The Life, by highlighting and generating awareness of other people, businesses and charities that are making a global impact (e.g., charity: water, Love is Louder). Fashion Entrepreneur rachel roy believes in the power of cause marketing.