Local Toyota Service Centers and Weber State Automotive Training Programs

Affinity in Cause-Related Marketing

Implicit in any successful cause-related marketing campaign is the idea of affinity. Absent affinity, no cause-related marketing campaign is likely to soar

Think about it, if children with cancer don’t affect you emotionally, intellectually or otherwise, then you’re far less likely support any cause marketing campaign on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

And it has to be the right kind of affinity. I may love American Idol and Randy Jackson, but if I don’t have a cat then his endorsement in this 9Lives FSI isn’t likely to convince me to buy a bag of dry cat food.

So consider the case of this mailer, received at my home circa October 2004 from the cooperative marketing group for the Toyota Service Centers in my market. I get one of these mailers about once a month. This one advertised a lube, oil and filter service featuring genuine Toyota parts.

In the red burst on the left side is the cause-marketing offer. Buy this service for $25.95, and the Toyota Service Center will make a $2 donation to Weber State University automotive training programs, which the mailer points out, were negatively affected by budget cuts.

The text of the burst makes it clear that the local Toyota Service Centers have some skin in the game.

“Weber State University trains our technicians to stay current with the ever
more complex systems in your state of the art Toyota vehicles.”

But I don’t have any skin in this game. While I admire Weber State University, I’m not an alumnus, nor is any immediate family member. Weber State’s campus is about 50 miles away, so I don’t have any particular affinity based on proximity. Moreover, the training of automotive technicians, while important, strikes me as exactly the kind of program that ought to be heavily funded by Toyota, its dealers, and service centers anyway.

In other words, I don’t have any affinity with the school or its automotive training programs. Ergo, the $2 donation represents no special incentive to me.

Who might have an affinity? That’s a tough one. Certainly graduates of Weber State’s automotive training programs, but almost by definition those people all change their own oil. What about other Weber State students, graduates, vendors, donors, faculty or staff?

They certainly have affinity for the school, but does that extend to any special affinity to an automotive training program? Difficult to say without surveying those groups.

In short, the Toyota Service Centers in my local market used a cause-related marketing ploy on a lot of people (myself included) that don’t have a natural affinity for the ‘cause.’

I don’t know what the results of the campaign were, but I do know that in the 2½ years since I received this I haven’t seen any other offer like this from my local Toyota Service Centers.

I’ll bet the gambit didn’t really pay off.

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