All in a Good Cause

By Gray, Robert | Marketing, January 29, 1998 | Go to article overview

All in a Good Cause


Gray, Robert, Marketing


PR consultancies are embracing cause-related marketing with enthusiasm.

Holiday village operator Center Parcs will champion wild flower conservation later this year in what is set to grow into a classic cause-related marketing campaign. The omens are good because all the right ingredients are in place.

For a start, Center Parcs has a favourable environmental record, so it cannot be accused of hypocrisy. Its holiday villages include areas of carefully preserved woodland, an image it is keen to convey alongside the sports and swimming pool flumes for which it is arguably better known.

Quite logically, therefore, the first strand of the campaign is for Center Parcs to concentrate on safeguarding the wild flowers on its own land. Stage two centres on a sales promotion mechanic - pots containing wild flower seeds will be sold through retailers such as garden centres and DIY outlets.

A percentage of each sale will go toward wild flower conservation in the UK. This will be communicated on the packaging, which will also be used to market the attractions of Center Parcs. Given that Center Parcs' target market of young families fits well with the demographic for DIY and garden centre shoppers, it will offer a genuine awareness-generating platform.

Finally, consumers who buy the product will be able to do their own bit to save endangered species of flora by planting the seeds in their gardens. All in all, it's a cleverly thought through cause-related marketing campaign, so congratulations to the sales promotion house that put it together...except that it wasn't a sales promotion agency at all.

The plaudits should go instead to Center Parcs' PR consultancy, Countrywide Porter Novelli, which devised the campaign after considering links with over 50 worthy causes.

"We can take the message to consumers through retail outlets in a way that doesn't cheapen the brand integrity," says Countrywide creative director Pauline Kent. "PR isn't just about providing the media relations bolted on to a sales promotion. We're more likely to be given a brief to develop something from the beginning."

PR is an essential part of most CRM campaigns. And because PR professionals, be they in-house or at consultancies, are used to dealing with issues related to corporate citizenship, they are probably the advisers best-placed to help marketers develop CRM initiatives.

"CRM has in the past been closer to sales promotion and separate from being a good corporate citizen. I think that's over now. Companies that want to get into CRM without looking at the wider implications are crazy; it will backfire on them," adds Kent. PR consultancies hot on CRM, such as Countrywide and Kinross & Render, carry out a social audit or 'health check' on clients before suggesting a course of action. In this way, anomalies are avoided.

Prime suspects

Companies with even slightly suspect environmental practices, for instance, are dissuaded from linking themselves with environmental charities. If they were to do so, the chances are that an ever-vigilant and news hungry media would expose them for not being greener than green.

The upshot of this could be untold damage to a brand and corporate reputation, with a probable knock-on effect hitting the charity partner - not at all what CRM should be about. For, at its best, it is a win-win relationship.

"Only two years ago it was relatively rare for clients to ask us to make recommendations on potential CRM activities as part of programme planning," says Kinross & Render chief executive Sara Render. "Nowadays, it is rare for clients in the financial services and consumer goods industries not to include a CRM requirement. It remains unusual for our clients outside these areas.

"Charities have got very switched on to this, but competition to be the beneficiary of a CRM initiative is intense and is almost invariably won by the big, well-established names. …

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