World-Beating Cause Marketing I

There are a handful of big ‘single-element' cause-related marketing campaigns that have been around for decades, and in their longevity they hold lessons for cause marketers everywhere. Today I'll review four of the very best. In my next post I’ll discuss what we can learn from them.

First some caveats.

I'm going to list four campaigns not because there are only four, but because any more than that would make these posts unwieldy. Three-forths of them are North American because frankly, I'm most familiar with them. If you have examples from somewhere else that should be on this list, by all means leave a comment or email me at aldenkeeneatgmaildotcom. I'd love to feature campaigns from other places.

Here's how I determined my list. I looked at large-scale campaigns that have been around for at least 10 years, have broad appeal and have raised at least $50 million over their term.

I eliminated all the walks, runs, bike-a-thons, etc. Although those kinds of campaigns frequently have cause-related marketing elements, they are best characterized as events. Likewise I haven't counted multiple-element campaigns like the two Red Dress programs from HeartTruth and the American Heart Association, Komen's Breast Cancer Month, Thanks and Giving from St. Jude, and the RED campaign.

I'm highlighting only campaigns with a single main element. Because like a single malt whiskey (I'm told), or a single-source chocolate, these single-element campaigns have a purity in their concentration and focus; you're only getting one thing. Having only one major element also makes it easier for me to parse out the lessons.

Without further ado here are four world-beating, large-scale, long-standing, big-money cause-related marketing campaigns:

1. Campbell’s Labels for Education campaign. In more 30 years Campbell’s Labels for Education has provided in excess of $100 million in school supplies and merchandise. Currently, 75,000 schools and organizations in the U.S. are registered with Label’s for Education. About 150 items among Campbell’s brands… Prego, Pepperidge Farm, V8, Swanson, & Franco American carry a point value, typically one point or five points. People are encouraged to bring the required part of the label to a local school. At the school employee or volunteer combines the labels. An online catalog lists the items available along with the required points. A student snare drum kit is 18,500 points. A media cart is 10,100 points. A basketball is 700 points.

2. General Mills BoxTops for Education. Labels for Education is plainly the model for General Mills’ BoxTops for Education. But General Mills expanded and improved on the concept. Consequently, in just over 10 years General Mills has given away $175 million to American schools. In the BoxTops campaign the values are standardized… every boxtop is worth 10 cents… and hundreds of General Mills’ products are eligible. Some 95,000 schools participate. In 2005 non-competing brands from other companies joined the program. One of the most notable improvements General Mills has over the Campbell’s program is that BoxTops rewards cash rather than merchandise.

3. US Postal Service Breast Cancer Semipostal Stamps. The enormously successful breast cancer research stamps literally required a change in U.S. law. Before the 1997 change in law it was unlawful for the US Post Office to charge more than the face value of a stamp. The Breast Cancer Stamps are sold for 45 cents and are valid for a one ounce first class envelope. That’s currently 6 cents more than a regular first class stamp. Through the end of 2006 approximately 725 million breast cancer stamps have been sold and $52 million has gone to two Federal research agencies: the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense Medical Research Program.

4. Red Nose Day in the UK. Started in 1988 by Comic Relief, the Red Nose Day is now held every two years, most recently on March 16, 2007. People are encouraged to do all kinds of stuff… the sillier the better... to raise money. It culminates in a sort of a telethon that airs that night on BBC. The money is split 60-40 between the needy in Africa and in the UK. BBC underwrites the telethon and corporate sponsors underwrite other costs such that Comic Relief has remained true to its ‘Golden Pound Principle;’ that is, every shilling that’s raised goes to the causes. The Red Nose Day raised more than ₤63 million in 2005. So far they’re reporting ₤40.2 million on Red Nose Day night alone for the 2007 event. The final total won’t be known for weeks to come. Cumulatively, Comic Relief has generated more than ₤300 million since 1985.

On Tuesday’s posting, I’ll break out what we can learn from these campaigns.

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