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Cause-Related Marketing with Franchises

In the States there’s one place where you’re all but guaranteed to run into some kind of cause-related marketing, namely a retail franchise outlet.

The ten largest U.S. based franchise systems, ranked according to total system sales volume as ranked by the
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). Carlson-Wagonlit Travel…?

4). KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)…?

5). Ace Hardware…
Children’s Miracle Network

6). Burger King… ?

7). Pizza Hut…
Book It reading incentive program

8). Coldwell Banker Real Estate…
Habitat for Humanity

9). Subway Restaurants… American Heart Association

10). Wendy’s…Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

It’s not surprising that consumer-oriented franchises would tend to have a cause marketing focus. Academic researchers consistently find that corporate social responsibility makes good business sense for businesses that target the consumer market.

But doing cause marketing campaigns with franchises is fairly complicated, as evidenced by the Money Mailer envelope illustrated above. Money Mailer is a franchise system that delivers advertisement coupons via direct mail. Inside the Money Mailer envelope you'll find coupons from restaurant and car repair services, ads from chiropractors, and the like. Small business stuff.

According to the Franchise times, Money Mailer is the 218th largest franchise system in the U.S. with worldwide sales of $167 million and 322 units, 94 percent of which are owned by franchisees.
While the Children's Miracle Network logo is prominently featured, there's was nothing else on the envelope or inside to explain why the logo is there.

Here's the explanation. Money Mailer has a national relationship with Children's Miracle Network. But the local franchisees are responsible for selling the campaign to the local advertisers in the franchise's area, if they choose.

Local franchisees have autonomy. If a McDonald's in Saratoga, New York doesn't want to support the nearby Ronald McDonald House, he probably doesn't have to. Although he certainly gets plenty of pressure to do so from the McDonald's owner's group. I've been told that one of the main reasons why the once narrowly-focused Ronald McDonald House become the broader-focused Ronald McDonald House Charities is because owners and owner's groups wanted to be able to support their own 'pet' causes.

In the Money Mailer case, Children's Miracle Network has to sell their cause to 322 Money Mailer franchise outlets who then have to sell the idea of couponing to their local market advertisers. Then there's got to be a means to account for and collect any money.

Now you see why cause-related marketing's not for the faint of heart.

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:

* Does my cause have the breadth of appeal that can attract a franchise?

* Is there a 'fit'?
* Are the target franchise systems close enough to consumers to be able to ask for money/support?
* Can I get the support of powerful individual franchisees?
* Can I physically support the efforts of franchises that may be spread out all over the country?
* Can I put into place a mechanism for collecting money?

* Do I have the wherewithal to promote the relationship in the media?
* How will I recognize and reward the acheivements of individual franchisees?
* If there are materials to distribute, does the franchisor have an effective way to deliver them?
* When selling your charity to the franchise system, does the franchisor have an efficient way for me to get in front of the individual franchisees?

For franchisees and franchise systems, the questions you have to ask of woud-be charity partners are almost a mirror image:

+ Does the charity's mission have broad appeal?
+ Will your customers know who anything about the charity?

+ Is what they know good?
+ Do they have any scandals in their past?

+ Does the charity have unique appeal?
+ Does the charity have the support of influential franchisees?
+ Is there a 'fit'?
+ Do the charity fulfill its mission well?

+ Are they efficient with their resources?
+ Is the relationship or any of the elements promotable in the media?
+ Can they help you with promotions?
+ Do you have budget to help them produce and distribute campaign materials?
+ Do they have people on the ground in the markets most important to you?
+ How will they acknowledge the franchisee's efforts?


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.

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