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A Cause Marketing Study I’d Like to See

Since cause marketing usually faces the consumer, retailers are under pressure to engage in cause marketing campaigns for causes large and small. Necessarily this means that retailers say no to more cause partnerships than they say yes to.

This is as it should be. There are a million or so 501(c)(3) nonprofit charities in the United States and only a thin slice of them are good matches for retail sponsors.

That said, there are certainly many instances when a retailer could be well-matched with more than one cause. Indeed, some grocers do paper icon campaigns for MDA, Children’s Miracle Network, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and others, albeit separated by several months.

Witness this circular from Lowe’s that came to me yesterday. On the front page one of the on-sale items is an 18-piece tool kit, in pink because it benefit's Lowe's campaign for Habitat for Humanity, called 'Women Build.' Appropriately, Lowe’s supports Habitat for Humanity philanthropically as well.

On page two is this layout for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Five items in Komen’s trademark pink are shown, including a potted pink dahlia. Sales from the items benefit the charity.

Of the two major home improvement chain in the United States, Lowe’s targets woman more deliberately than does Home Depot. So Komen is a good match for Lowe’s as well.

Here’s the cause marketing study I’d like to see done.
  • Does the fact that Lowe’s is supporting both causes simultaneously hurt one or the other or both?
  • Is their proximity to each other helpful or hurtful?
  • Are the people who buy the Komen merchandise different than those who buy the Habitat merchandise?
  • The Habitat tool kit is also available in green. Should the circular’s graphic designer have chosen green-colored tool kit instead to minimize potential confusion with Komen?
  • Should the items be merchandised in proximity to each other in the stores themselves, or not?
  • What if there was a third charity in the mix in the same time frame, also appropriate for Lowe’s, like KaBOOM!, the playground-building charity? Would their themed merchandise still sell?


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