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Cause Marketing for the Chamber of Commerce

The Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce is offering paper icons to member organizations to raise funds for the annual University of Utah vs. Brigham Young University (BYU) Food Drive, which culminates at the rivalry football game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, November 27.

The money collected by BYU fans goes to the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Utah County. The suggested retail price for the icons, called ‘Y Marks,’ is $1.

(At left is a flyer for the campaign. I haven't laid my hands on an actual 'Y Mark' yet).

This is the first time I’ve seen a Chamber of Commerce sponsor a paper icon campaign, but it’s not hard to imagine why the Utah Valley Chamber choose to do it. Utah County, where BYU and the Utah Valley Chamber is located, is a natural hotbed of BYU football fans. It’s logical to assume that most of the small businesses in Utah County are either owned by or employ BYU fans.

Retail businesses are frequently members of Chambers of Commerce, and paper icon campaigns all but require a retail presence to be successful. Paper icon campaigns are also relatively inexpensive; just a few pennies a piece to produce in quantity. It’s easy to imagine a printer who is also a member of the Chamber and a BYU fan bumping the printing of the icons on to the tail end of another print job and doing them for free.

There’s a few other things at play in this campaign that are normally missing in a paper icon campaign.
  1. The Chamber almost certainly has hundreds of members with retail storefronts, meaning the potential footprint of the campaign is much larger than if it was taking place only at a chain of grocery stores in Utah County or at all the TGIFridays locations, for example.
  2. There’s unusual pride involved, too. The BYU football team is currently 5:5, while the University of Utah (my alumnus) is 8:2. Despite BYU's down year, few rivalries in college football are more bitter and none are as physically close. The two schools are only about 50 miles apart. So if BYU loses to Utah, it could still claim moral superiority if it won the food drive.
Even with those added dimensions, I think the Utah Valley Chamber could still make some improvements.

While Utah County is mostly BYU fans, there are a few diehard Utah fans there. Willing Chamber members could sell ‘U Marks’ but at, say, a $5 price. A loyal Utah fan might be willing to pay more to plant his red U in a sea of blue ‘Y Marks.’ The money raised in Utah County by selling 'U Marks' would still go to Community Action Services and Food Bank.

The Chamber could also set businesses against each other to see who sells the most. The incentive could be that the coach of the BYU football team, Bronco Mendenhall, makes a special appearance at the business that sells the most icons.

Finally, the Utah Valley Chamber should share this approach with the Salt Lake Chamber, headquartered in neighboring Salt Lake County, which is home to the University of Utah. (Only in Salt Lake County, the money would instead go to the Utah Food Bank, which serves the Capital City).

In fact, there’s a lot of Chambers around that country that ought to steal this idea.


Lalia Helmer said…
Hi Paul,
I love the way you think about creative ways of going beyond the original cause marketing idea.
Your idea of expanding the paper icon method to other Chambers of Commerce, would be great if Chambers were more attune to learning from each other.
I worked on a similar project in my local chamber to support the local schools with a coupon/paper icon type program. The response from the local businesses was not as good as expected.
Small businesses are focused right now on how to get customers to "shop local"
I congratulate the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce for bringing together their members in a collective effort that not helped a good cause but also benefitted the local businesses.
Hi Lalia:

I don't think the Utah Valley Chamber is unique. But I do suspect that it is unusual.

It's hard to emphasize enough that Utah County, where the Utah Valley Chamber is in place, is VERY pro BYU.

There are actually two universities in Utah Valley, but BYU owns their hearts in a way that the other university (called Utah Valley University) never will.

Likewise, they tend to hate the University of Utah with a red-hot passion.

In short, the emotion of this cause campaign isn't the cause, it's the rivalry. The cause is just piggy-backing on that emotion.

And that's to the food bank's advantage in this case.

Again, thanks for your comments.

Warm regards,

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