Counter Cause Marketing

For more than three decades Campbell’s admirable Labels for Education has helped the soup maker maintain pricing power, fend off competitors and kept soup and the company’s other consumer package goods relevant for kids.

The result is that Campbell’s is a veritable fortress, especially in condensed soups, but also in ready-to-eat soups.

One of Campbell’s few competitors of consequence is Progresso, which specializes in ready-to-eat soup and so-called 'meal replacement.' Progresso was privately held but has long been owned by General Mills.

General Mills, of course, has its own label cause marketing program benefiting schools called Boxtops for Education. Boxtops for Education is younger, but no less admirable than Labels for Education and the benefits accrue in cold, hard cash, rather than in goods, which is how Labels for Education works.

Boxtops is now the bigger campaign in part because they allow brands other than General Mills participate. But I note that the Labels for Education website has now stripped out much of the Campbell's branding, suggesting that Labels will now include non-Campbell's brands as well. Already Pop Secret popcorn, which was once owned by General Mills, but sold in 2008 to a co-op called Diamond Foods, is participating in Labels for Education. You can expect more to come.

Progresso participates in Boxtops for Education in one of the clearest cases of counter cause marketing I can think of.

But curiously, for reasons I can’t fathom, not all the varieties of Progresso participate in Boxtops.

To me, it seems that Progresso is marketing against fortress Campbell’s with one hand tied behind its back.

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