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Cause Marketing to Raise Awareness

Not all cause-related marketing is about raising money, per se. Sometimes it’s about the charity's messaging.

Pictured are images from a box of Hamburger Helper from the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database that was purchased in 2008. Prominently featured on the front and back of the box is Susan G. Komen’s ‘Pink for the Cure’ campaign.

And while the front makes it clear that General Mills is donating $2 million to Susan G. Komen, it’s not clear that this is a transactional cause marketing campaign. That is, it’s hard to tell if my purchase of this box triggered a donation.

But the back of the box suggests that this is about raising awareness more than raising money.

At the bottom Komen lists “3 ways to help protect yourself.”
  1. Get a mammogram.
  2. Get a clinical breast exam.
  3. Learn how to do a self-examination.
Nothing earth-shattering here. This has been Komen's basic message for coming up on 30 years. But like the saying goes, sometimes it’s better to be reminded of something we already know than to learn something new.

Furthermore, while these recommendations may be old hat for 50-year-old women, every year there’s a new crop of 20-year-olds who may not have heard the message yet.

And a box of Hamburger Helper is a good place to put that message since mom is still the person most likely to prepare the family meal.

How many moms got that message?

I couldn’t find out what kind of unit volume Hamburger Helper does, but in 2008 General Mills’ meals division, which is dominated by Hamburger Helper, did about $1.8 billion a year in sales.

For the sake of argument let’s say that half of that amount or $900 million came from Hamburger Helper sales. Let’s also assume that General Mills makes the same amount of Hamburger Helper every week. At an average retail price of $2.69 per box they would make 334 million packages of Hamburger Helper a year, or 6.4 million units a week.

If they put the S.G. Komen messaging on just one week’s worth of Hamburger Helper boxes, that’s pretty good exposure by itself.

This campaign is head and shoulders better than just the charity’s logo on package. Could General Mills have done more? Probably not on the box itself. Komen got some valuable real estate here.

But nowadays General Mills could easily bridge the printed packaging and the digital world by adding a QR code. The code could point a shoppers smart phone to a Facebook page, a microsite, open a video or picture, send someone to a sweepstakes sign-up page, or even launch some kind augmented reality.

For example, the QR code could have opened up a video that demonstrates how to do the self-exam.

I expect that the ever-sophisticated Komen organization would want to collect contact information, so launching the user’s Facebook account or collecting similar information via a sweepstakes promotion would be ideal.

But do enough Hamburger Helper buyers have smart phones for such an extension to make sense?

I don’t know for sure who buys Hamburger Helper, but a Pew study released last week found that about 1/3 of adults in the U.S. own smart phones but the penetration was even higher among Hispanics, Blacks and people whose household income is north of $75,000.


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