Employee Enthusiasm Helps Cause Marketing Initiatives

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Ben & Jerry’s, Nike and Things Remembered are three distinctly different companies, but share a common thread when it comes to cause marketing: They get their employees on board.

If an employee feels there is a social cause that Ben & Jerry’s should act on, he or she is encouraged to raise it with management, Ben & Jerry’s Chief Euphoria Officer Walt Freese said last week at the Cause Marketing Forum Conference in New York.

And if Ben & Jerry’s decides to act, Freese said it would be in a fun, attention-grabbing way.

For example, Ben & Jerry’s this past April jumped on employee concerns about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. The result was the creation of the world’s largest Baked Alaska, made with Ben & Jerry’s Fossil Fuel ice cream, which employees transported from Vermont to Washington, DC, and served on Earth Day in front of the White House. Also that weekend, participating scoop shops served a Baked Alaska sundae— scoop of ice cream on top of a chocolate chip cookie, topped with marshmallow, then baked until toasted.

The result did not cause profit-surges at the Unilever-owned brand, but garnered about 30 million media impressions and helped raise awareness about ANWR— purpose of the stunt, Freese said.

“If you do it a little different, and you do it in a timely fashion, you can have results that go way, way beyond your cause,” Freese said. “But if you try to look at the return on investment when you set out on a cause marketing campaign, nine out of 10 times you won’t succeed.”

For Nike, the brand knew it had a winner in Livestrong— rubber bracelets made to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation— Nike employees showed their enthusiasm for the product’s cause, said Rosemary St. Clair, Nike director-U.S. brand initiatives.

Before the infamous bracelets were seen on everyone from professional athletes to presidential candidates last year, Nike Chairman Phil Knight mobilized the forces with a video shown to employees.

The video explained selling the bracelets would celebrate Armstrong’s run at a sixth Tour de France victory (which he later achieved) and raise money and awareness for the foundation, which empowers people with cancer through education, advocacy, public health and research programs. The day it aired, Nike employees purchased 38,000 of the $1 symbols.

One Nike employee, Chris Aveni pledged to purchase 1,000 bracelets, then raised it to 5,000, to send to her doctors, oncologists, friends and patients so the word could be spread. Aveni, a cancer survivor, had recently learned her breast cancer returned.

“When our retail partners found out how enthusiastic our employees were about the bracelets, they came on board,” St. Clair said. “Foot Locker asked for 1 million bracelets, and Niketown asked for another million.”

St. Clair said she thought the bracelets would be a flop, and that the company’s initial order of 5 million would still be on a shelf somewhere. However, more than 50 million of the Livestrong bands had been sold by June 1, one year after employees watched the video.

“Lance had even kidded us that he’d be flinging the wrist bands at people during the Tour de France, or that he’d be wrapping his newspapers with them,” St. Clair said.

Things Remembered, a 700-location chain of personalized engraving stores, has been involved with Make-A-Wish Foundation since the company received its first request for a wish. And Things Remembered President Suzanne Sutter, who now serves as the foundation’s chairman, sets goals for each of the company’s employees to get them involved all the way down to the store level.

It started in 1997, when Sutter received a call from Make-A-Wish asking for a donation. A 16-year-old girl, Elysia, wished for gifts for 62 friends and family members so that she could be remembered after she passed away.

Sutter granted the wish, then saw Elysia on a Thanksgiving Day television show, thanking Things Remembered for granting her wish.

“Right then, I decided that Make-A-Wish was going to be the cause for Things Remembered,” Sutter said.

For the 1998 holiday season, Things Remembered sold an ornament dedicated to the life of Elyse. The ornaments sold out, and Things Remembered donated the $111,000 proceeds to Make-A-Wish. In this, its seventh year of involvement, Things Remembered has already donated $1 million to the cause.

And that’s not just from ornament sales, which have since become a company tradition. Employees ask consumers at the point of purchase if they would like to make a donation. Employees can also wear jeans to work twice a year, but have to donate $5 to Make-A-Wish for the privilege.

The company also markets the cause in-store, online and direct to customers, and uses public relations on the local store level to raise awareness. In addition, the store that raises the highest percentage over its goal gets a Make-A-Wish gift donated in its name.

“Our employees tell us they are proud to work for a company that gives back to the community,” Sutter said. “But if you don’t hardwire the cause into your employees, you don’t hardwire into the cause.”


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