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Where's Kmart's Cause Marketing? Let Tom Tell You.

The other day I posted the question Where’s Kmart’s Cause Marketing Effort?” in the Christmas season circulars and Tom Aiello, Division Vice President, Public Relations at Sears Holdings was kind enough to respond.

He also graciously agreed to answer 10 questions I had for him about Kmart’s “Purpose Marketing,” and the company’s notably-long sponsorship of March of Dimes, along with Kmart’s newer sponsorship of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s brilliant Thanks and Giving Campaign.

1. Kmart has been a sponsor of March of Dimes for more than a quarter of a century. How has the complexion of that sponsorship changed over time. How is it the same?
“Kmart is dedicated to helping the March of Dimes and this is the 27th year that Kmart will be partnering with the March of Dimes and our 18th year as a national sponsor of the March for Babies walk. Kmart is the March of Dimes longest standing corporate supporter and largest contributor to its mission, and has raised $90 million on behalf of the organization over the past 26 years. In 2009, Kmart associates raised a record $8.3 million through donations from customers as well as friends and family to benefit the four million babies born each year in this country. It is Kmart's mission to continue to help raise donations to help the March of Dimes and the families involved.”
2. You use the expression Purpose Marketing. What does that mean to Kmart? And what does it say that cause marketing doesn't?
“Kmart doesn’t do cause marketing. We tie our business purpose to a higher social purpose, which is the health of babies and children. We couple that purpose with participation from our employees to volunteer for programs such as March of Dimes marches. We also weave that purpose into different elements of our business such as vendors, product, marketing, and corporate.”
3. What would you say is Kmart's signature Purpose Marketing effort?
“During the year, we have many storewide efforts supporting both St. Jude and March of Dimes. Right now, our current effort around the holidays is supporting St. Jude with its Thanks and Giving campaign for the fifth year. Kmart – with the help of its associates and customers – has raised nearly $20 million, making the retailer the leading fundraiser for the Thanks and Giving campaign.”

4. What would your employees say is the best part of Kmart's Purpose Marketing efforts.
“Seeing how giving a little back can really make a difference in a child's life and their family's too. Consistently, employees tell me that these are real issues that touch us and our customers. It’s very inspirational to our associates.”
5. Kmart also supports St Jude Children's Research Hospital. How did that relationship come about?
“Kmart started working with St. Jude five years ago on its annual Thanks and Giving campaign, which ultimately supports the research hospital.”
6. What is Kmart currently doing in support of St. Jude?
“As noted above, Kmart is currently raising donations for the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign. This is the fifth consecutive year the Kmart has participated. Earlier this year, St. Jude recognized Kmart as the “Corporate Partner of the Year” for its commitment to helping children live longer and healthier lives.”
7. It used to be that differentiating yourself from competitors was one of the reasons for a company to engage in cause marketing. But right now almost all your national competitors do cause marketing to one degree or another. In your view, does cause marketing still help a major retailer like Kmart stand out?
“As noted above, we don't do cause marketing, rather we look for opportunities to tie our business purpose to a higher social purpose. Kmart engages in efforts to help the families and children in the local communities around our stores. It isn't about perception, rather how we can use our visibility and reach to help those in need.”
8. Kmart and Sears were brought together in the same holding company because of potential synergies. How are there synergies evident between Sears and Kmart in your Purpose Marketing?
“Both Kmart and Sears focus on helping families in need. Kmart benefits St. Jude and March of Dimes to help families with children who need added support. Sears has its own focus, Heroes at Home, that benefits military veterans and their families. One obvious synergy is that drawing upon both Sears and Kmart, we can amplify our volunteerism. For example, in New Orleans on the 5th anniversary of Katrina we had over 175 associates come from the stores to volunteer and help rebuild 50 home in a week.”
9. Where is Kmart going with its Purpose Marketing over the next five and ten years?
“We will continue to support charities and work to help the lives of those around us. Social purpose should become closer to our business purpose, where it might become hard to tell the difference between the two.”
10. How do you measure the results of Kmart's Purpose Marketing?
“The results are primarily measured by how many lives we are able to change by our efforts.”

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