The Appeal of Franchises for Cause Marketers

Cause marketing is almost always directed at consumers. So in North America one place you can be all but certain to find cause marketing is at retail franchise outlet.

 The ten largest franchise systems, ranked according to worldwide sales volume as ranked by Franchise Times follow. Where known I’ve added the cause with which each franchise system is most publicly affiliated.
  1. McDonald’s… Ronald McDonald House Charities
  2. 7-Eleven… Muscular Dystrophy Association
  3. KFC … KFC Colonel’s Scholars, et al
  4. Burger King… various
  5. Subway Restaurants… American Heart Association
  6. Ace Hardware… Children’s Miracle Network
  7. Circle K Stores… United Cerebral Palsy
  8. Pizza Hut…Book It, et al
  9. Wendy’s… Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  10. Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites… Children’s Miracle Network.
It’s not surprising that consumer-oriented franchises would tend to have a cause marketing focus. Academic research consistently finds that corporate social responsibility makes good business sense for businesses that target the consumer market. Cause marketing has also been found to help preserve pricing power and to positively affect how consumers perceive product performance.

But doing cause marketing campaigns with franchises ain’t always easy.

One reason is that local franchisees have autonomy. If a McDonald's franchisee in Albuquerque, New Mexico wants to support the nearby Ronald McDonald House, he probably doesn't have to. Although he’d certainly get plenty of pressure to do so from the local McDonald's owner's group. I've been told that one of the main reasons why the once narrowly-focused Ronald McDonald House became the broader-focused Ronald McDonald House Charities is because owners and owner's groups wanted to be able to support their own 'pet' causes.

Go down the Franchise Times list and you'll find plenty of franchise systems that don't have a cause affiliation. It's a prospect list for charities, in other words.

For charities you need to ask yourself the following before you start making phone calls:

For franchisees and franchise systems, the questions you have to ask of would-be charity partners are almost a mirror image:
Retail franchises are ripe for cause campaigns because consumers expect them. But make sure you have good answers to the questions above before heading into cause marketing relationships.