Check Gallery and Strategic Cause Marketing

The Times they are A-Changing

The bottled water industry generated $15 billion in revenue in America in 2006. It will top $16 billion this year. That’s more than Americans spent on movie tickets or iPods.

And while 50 percent of Fijians don’t have access to clean, reliable water, millions of gallons Fiji Water is shipped most of the way across the Pacific and then trucked from the coast to chi-chi hotels or otherwise sold at a premium across the country.

This even though almost every American could walk to the closest tap and draw out clean, safe and often good-tasting water. These and other choice facts come out in Charles Fishman’s well-wrought 6,000-word piece on water in the July Fast Company.

At a time when the bottle watered business has never been better, I predict that the only direction it can go from here is down. The times they are a-changing.

Fishman concludes:

Packing bottled water in lunch boxes, grabbing a half-liter from the fridge as
we dash out the door, piling up half-finished bottles in the car cup holders--that happens because of a fundamental thoughtlessness. It's only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can't be bothered. And in a world in which 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, that conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don't need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier.
From a June 27, 2007 story in the Deseret Morning News:

Mayors across the country on Monday joined Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson in calling for a study of how bottled water impacts city budgets and waste streams.

Anderson, along with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, sponsored a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Los Angeles calling for the study, and according to a news release from the nonprofit group Corporate Accountability International, the conference's attendees "overwhelmingly" adopted the resolution…

CAI estimates people in the United States currently spend $11 billion yearly on bottled water, a figure it compared to the estimated $22 billion funding shortfall in the country's municipal water infrastructure budgets.

Other cities have attempted to reduce the use of one-use water bottles in their communities. Most recently, Ann Arbor, Mich., announced it would no longer
offer bottled water at city-sponsored events.
Forgive my immodesty, but I saw this coming back when I posted on Crystal Geyser water in November 2006.

So in times like this what choices do you have if your business is based on consumables? That is, what if your business model is to sell stuff that we discard rather than save after use, like chewing gum, newspapers, or paper checks?

It appears to me that the staff at Check Gallery has asked this very question and came up with some solid answers, based in part on cause-related marketing and social responsibility.

Checks are a consumable and thereby have an environmental impact. But for a check printer, that’s hardly their only worry. Checks are also threatened by electronic banking and debit cards. To get a feel for that threat, next time you go shopping count the number of merchants which have a little sign taped to the cash register, often hand-lettered, that reads “We know longer accept checks. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

Above is the front of a flyer delivered to my mailbox on July 10, 2007. The headline reads:

"America’s Leading Earth-Friendly Checks For Less."

The deck below reads;

Great designs get you in touch with your interests at a significant savings. And
whatever design appeals to you—you’ll benefit from Check Gallery’s outstanding
value and environmentally-friendly products. All checks are printed on premium,
recycled paper with non-toxic inks and are available in One-Part and Duplicate
formats in boxes of 150.

Okay, it ain’t exactly Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, but you get the point.

In all, Check Gallery supports six charities: National Wildlife Foundation; Lupus Foundation of America; Defenders of Wildlife; National Breast Cancer Foundation; Humane Society of the United States; and, the Boat U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

In effect, Check Gallery has made cause-related marketing, normally a tactic, into a strategy and I applaud them for that and for addressing this issue now, even if their approach is a little ham-handed. Witness their awful logo on the top left, for instance.

Still, if you’re in the consumables business, there's probably something you can learn from Check Gallery.

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