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The Last Cause-Related Marketing Label Campaign to the School Dance

Nestle Waters North America has a label campaign out called GoLife that benefits schools by providing sports equipment and school trips. But there’s an elephant in the classroom.

If label campaign benefiting schools sounds like familiar ground, you’re right. Campbell’s has been doing one for more than 30 years, and General Mills has been doing their Boxtops for Education campaign for 12 years. General Mills is the larger of the two in no small part because schools can redeem the Boxtops for cash rather than merchandise.

Schools and PTAs/PTOs encourage parents to collect boxtops/labels and assign someone to manage all the collecting, counting and redeeming. In my kids’ school one of the secretaries has this assignment and there are two large barrels in the school office, one for Labels and one for Boxtops.

Before the Internet this was a whole lot more work than it is now. But even still there’s probably not too many school secretaries or PTA/PTO label coordinators who relish this part of their work.

GoLife has been going on (it appears) since 2007 and will run through the end of the 2009 school year. My kids’ school wasn’t registered. And, so far as I can tell, neither were any of the 71 schools within a five mile radius of my zip code.

I don’t know who built GoLife for Nestle of if they put it together internally, but it leaves me with a number of questions.
  • The points a school can earn is capped at 1 million. Why? Isn’t more labels better?
  • The campaign has deadlines to enroll schools, register points, and redeem points. The campaign also has a hard end-date. Why not just make the campaign year-round, as with Boxtops for Education and Labels for Education?
The hard end-date makes it seem that Nestle is just testing the waters with GoLife.
  • As near as I can determine, GoLife requires about the same amount of effort for schools as Labels and Boxtops. I wonder if they actually talked to any school secretaries before they launched this? Who better to help them distinguish their campaign than the people who actually administer it?
  • Which leads to my next question, why another school label campaign? Boxtops for Education and Labels for Education each have dozens of eligible products. GoLife has basically one. Because of that disparity, GoLife is destined to always be the third option, and the last one in parent’s minds.
Sports equipment makes sense strategically, since Nestle also promotes water as a healthy alternative to juice boxes.
  • But the elephant in the classroom is this: every school in America has drinking fountains. Every home in America has fresh water coming out of its faucets. With rare exceptions nationwide, the water that comes out of those faucets and fountains is pure and wholesome (even if the taste sometimes leaves something to be desired). Bottling water and shipping it great distances in small plastic bottles when children and adults have ready access to good water is an inherently wasteful enterprise.
Nestle Waters North America promotes that it uses less plastic for their bottles than before, but one way or another much of that plastic ends up in the wastestream. Even the bottles that are recycled require energy to transport, shred and melt them.

As I’ve mentioned before, progressive local governments and groups have begun to ban bottled water at their confabs.

I’d be willing to bet a double-thick milkshake that over the next five years Nestle Waters North America experiences a slow but steady erosion of sales in the U.S. because consumers are waking up to the issue of the wastefulness of bottled water.

I’m all in favor of using cause-related marketing to help companies solve challenging PR issues. But if it’s going to preserve market share Nestle has to do something more holistic than GoLife to counter that perception.

Then there’s the issue of being the third cause-related marketing label campaign to the school dance. Third place isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. But to be successful in third place you have to be really strongly positioned against the competition. I just don’t think Nestle’s done that here.


Kim Carpenter Drake said…
As a mother and a marketer, I don't think the school dance needs any more invitees. I have been involved in the boxtops and campbell's programs at our school and its a lot of work - though worth it and a great way to get kids involved in the charitable process at a young age.

However, Nestle seems to be crossing the line in motivated self interest here. They are at once encouraging healthy life while encouraging behaviors that are both expensive for families (tap water is lots cheaper) and unhealthy for the environment.

If Nestle needs PTOs to sell their bottled water, perhaps they should rethink the product, not the market.

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