Cause Marketing Creates a Buzz

Several merchants are opening their corporate purse strings and incorporating cause marketing as a part of their overall promotion mix. And the timing could be good for retailers hoping to boost revenue during the holiday season.

That’s because 56% of consumers believe a company or brand has earned their business because it has been doing its part to support good causes, according to Goodpurpose Consumer Study, released in October.

While consumers have decreased spending on charitable giving, another study, the PRWeek/Barkley PR Cause Survey, shows that 91% expect companies to fill that gap and showcase their commitment to the greater good – up from 86% in 2008.

General merchant J.C. Penney in November announced it would support the Salvation Army’s existing Angel Giving Tree program by allowing its customers to shop online or in stores for Christmas gifts for children and seniors facing hardships. FedEx Ground is partnering with J.C. Penney to offer free delivery of gifts purchased online.

Guitar Center is holding a nationwide food drive at all its 214 stores to benefit 124 local food banks. Shoppers who donate a nonperishable item will receive a 10% off coupon for their next Guitar Center purchase.

Jockey, Lands’ End and Macy’s have also embarked on cause-marketing campaigns this fall.

David Hessekiel, founder/president of Cause Marketing Forum, an organization that assists companies that are looking to get involved in charitable causes, says that since his firm launched in 2002, merchants have steadily grown their cause marketing initiatives.

And in 2009, Hessekiel says merchants are more aggressive about promoting their work with cause marketing than in the past.

“It’s gone from where there was a more rarified group of merchants involved in cause marketing to it becoming a more mainstream marketing practice across the board, whether it’s discounters or high end merchants,” Hessekiel says.

But will consumers shop a certain store just because of the cause it is involved in? Hessekiel doesn’t think so, but he does agree with the surveys that consumers are appreciative and attracted to merchants that give back to causes.

“At this time, consumers are cash-strapped,” Hessekiel says. “It breeds goodwill to the stores that are involved and makes experience more fulfilling for the consumer.”