Les Schwab Tire Ad for Rotary Coat Drive

Huzzahs to Rotary and Kiwanis, the Un-Red

While everyone else is fawning over the new Red campaign, your humble servant is reviewing a very local campaign that gathers coats and winter items for the less fortunate here at home.

But wait, you’re saying, isn’t this out of character? Aren’t you the one who said that for cause-related marketing campaigns “sponsorship is about eyeballs, [but] the sisters of the orphans and all their charity cousins think it's about tears. When it comes to cause-related marketing, they're only half right.”?

Yes I did. And yes I still believe that. But I want to demonstrate that the principles of good cause-related marketing can scale up… as in the global Red campaign… as well as they scale down.

This ad, which appeared in the local newspaper on Sunday, November 12, 2006 wrapping the comics page is for Les Schwab, which sells tires. Les Schwab, headquartered in Prineville, Oregon has about 400 outlets in seven western US states. Their prices are competitive, but their most distinguishing trait is that when you pull onto their lot, someone sprints out to your car to help. It’s service with a smile and an accelerated heartbeat.

Forbes magazine estimates that Les Schwab does about $1.2 billion in sales. Or as the Brits say, they have turnover of about $1.2 billion. But they work very hard at staying true to their small-town roots. Their stores do an annual barbecue, for instance. This ad is example of how they’re willing to turn over some space to a local Rotary chapter.

Now the ad isn’t very good. It’s buried below the fold. It depends too much on people having a favorable opinion of Rotary International as well as unit 24. The ad doesn’t say to whom the coats and winter items will go. Everything in the ad is bold. And like the old saying goes, when everything’s bold, nothing is. It’s all text and it’s too small.

Moreover, why didn’t Les Schwab kick in a set or four tires for some lucky donor? Or maybe one set of chains per store to whoever brought the most winter items. Couldn’t they have teamed up with local scouts who’d go door-to-door on some predetermined date to collect the coats?

Rotary unit 24 did their best, but their best isn’t very good.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I’m not a member of any of the service clubs, but I have had numerous positive dealings with Rotarians. Moreover, when I was at Children’s Miracle Network one of my accounts was Kiwanis International, so I know their work very well and hold both groups in the highest esteem. I’m saddened to say that while both these storied groups do well enough outside the United States, inside the States both struggle with declining growth rates.

That’s a pity because in a world of flashy campaigns like Red, it’s easy to forget that the Rotarians did more than any other entity to eradicate polio worldwide. Likewise, the Kiwanians have done more to end iodine deficiency worldwide, the leading cause of preventable mental and physical retardation.

But will any stars of the stage, screen or performance hall show up to congratulate them? Only if they’re past age 60!

Huzzahs to Rotarians and Kiwanians for their large campaigns and for small ones like the coat drive, even when they could be a lot better.

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