ANALYSIS: Pay-off is clear for cause related activity

New BitC research shows that backing a cause can be a shrewd strategy for brands.

Speak to anyone in the charity sector and they will be only too glad to tell you how invaluable cause related marketing is when it comes to raising funds and awareness. And while there are some high-profile examples of successful cause related marketing programmes, putting an actual figure on the worth of this marketing activity has so far proved elusive.

That is why Business in the Community started its CRM Tracker survey in March 2002 to look at its impact and investment. It found that more than £33m was raised in cash in 2001. The CRM Tracker looks at 60 cause related marketing programmes, carried out by more than 50 companies, covering more than 45 charities in six key cause impact areas.

Almost half the total was raised by just three programmes: Walkers Books for Schools, Tesco's Computers for Schools and Sainsbury's Comic Relief and Equipment for Schools tie-ups.

On top of the £33m raised, with the help of Initiative Media, BitC calculates there was a further £3m worth generated from the likes of on-pack placements.

This does not include above-the-line advertising.

As Sue Adkins, director of BitC, explained at its annual conference held in London last week, the CRM Tracker will continue to quantify the value of this marketing activity.

BitC has carried out various research programmes to look at the impact and influence of cause-related marketing from the business, charity and consumer perspective. Colin Buckingham, chairman and chief executive of Research International, which carries out research for the organisation, highlighted the compelling arguments this research has provided.

Seventy per cent of chief executives see corporate social responsibility as essential to their business, while 77% of chief executives and marketing directors think cause related marketing can enhance corporate or brand reputation.

Among consumers, 90% are aware of a cause related marketing programme and 77% of participants are positively influenced by cause related marketing at the point of purchase/decision-making.

BitC found that companies score higher on branding, innovation and trust when people know about their cause related activity.

Buckingham presented new research to the conference that aimed to identify practical cause-related marketing best practice by surveying 2000 consumers in September using the BMRB omnibus.

The research used three real examples that were made anonymous for the results. A dairy product linked with a health charity where a small logo featured on pack; a beverage brand and an environmental cause where the pack featured text about the cause; and a telecoms company using its web site and DM to promote a helpline.

Not surprisingly it found awareness was strongest where the cause was most promoted. Consumers also want the partnership to be explained well, so in the case of the dairy pack's small logo they felt it didn't have enough information.

There has to be an affinity between the values of the brand and the cause (so the beverage brand performed least well on this score).

"Consumers understand the mechanics of cause related marketing and are aware it's mutually beneficial so they are looking for a balance between the two," says Buckingham.

Adkins says: "Our message has always been for goodness' sake communicate, consumers want this and companies can be made to look the hero with very little effort."

The research showed that even the firms doing cause-related marketing least well stood to gain. "The consumer defaults to generous, not cynicism. Consumers want firms to do good things," says Adkins.

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