So Christmas is over, and with it the season of giving and goodwill. January is the time for most people to get back to their daily grind of making as much money as possible for the company that employs them.
It sounds callous, but let's face it, that is the reality for most workers. Unless you are a social worker or charity employee, there aren't too many opportunities to make a real difference in the world.
Except, that is, if you are in marketing. Those whose job it is to find innovative new ways of attracting consumers to a product are in the unique position of being able to both boost the bottom line and make a positive impact on society.
Those brands that already incorporate cause-related marketing in their marketing mix, such as Tesco, Walkers, British Gas and Avon, will be aware of the brand-building and financial benefits of tying up with a charity or cause. The primary reason cited by those who haven't yet embraced it, according to Cohn Buckingham, chairman and chief executive of Research International, is that" there is no clear business argument".
But new research by marketing services company dunnhumby demolishes this excuse. By analysing the sales impact of three cause-related marketing programmes using the Tesco Clubcard database, dunnhumby reinforces the view of Walkers president Martin Glenn that "shareholders, as well as the community, win".
Raising market share
The first scheme, a partnership between Unilever brand Persil and Comic Relief, set out to "emotionally engage consumers, enhance brand image, and increase sales". A donation was made to Comic Relief from every special edition pack of Persil sold, the amount depending on the pack size.
Lever Faberge also produced information packs and raised awareness through national TV, press and poster ads. More than [pounds sterling]300,000 was raised for Comic Relief in six weeks, and Persil was able to grab back the market share it had lost owing to a rival's heavily discounted price promotion.
Manor Bakeries cake brand Mr Kipling relaunched itself as "more fun and contemporary" with a scheme that donated 5p from the sale of each 'Red Nose' Cherry Bakewells pack for the six weeks of the campaign. Sales rocketed by 450% during the promotion and stayed up by 40% for about 12 weeks after the campaign. A [pounds sterling]320,000 donation to the fund exceeded expectations by [pounds sterling]70,000.
And in the tenth year of Tesco's Computers for Schools scheme, 538,000 out of nine million shoppers showed "substantial increase in spend" during the programme.
Clive Humby, chairman of dunnhumby, says all the programmes achieved similar or better results than discounted price or '20% extra' promotions. And just in case marketers are worried about impacting traditional ways of giving to charity, he adds that the research shows that cause-related marketing initiatives reach audiences that don't traditionally give to charities.
Many believe that the attacks of September 11 have made us all question what is important, and have highlighted the interdependence of business and society. Corporate social responsibility is not another 'fashionable' business issue that will fizzle out in a few months or years, but is essential to the future business practice.
As Vernon Ellis, international chairman of Accenture, said at The New Statesman lecture in London in July: "Global business is not something apart from society: its health and even its long-term survival depend on the global environment in which it operates. Most analysts now believe that the end of the world would have a very depressing effect on company profits."
There is no shortage of consumer research to press the point home. Business in the Community (BitC) findings show that, where pricing is equal, more than 80% of Western consumers would change brands and have a better perception of a company that does something to make the world a better place. …