Cause Marketing: The All Packaging Edition

One way to activate a cause marketing campaign when the sponsor sells a physical product is on the packaging.

I started my career in cause marketing on the charity side and I can tell you that back in the day we were thrilled to get a logo on pack of a consumer packaged good (CPG) or even just a mention. Since then, there’s been a welcome evolution of what sponsors are willing and able to do with their packaging in order to activate their cause sponsorships.

That said, even today some sponsors don’t seem to have gotten the memo that when it comes to explaining your cause campaign, more really is more, even on something as small as a can or bottle.

The savviest sponsors realize that their only guaranteed means of reaching actual customers with a cause marketing message is by putting it on packaging. And the reach and frequency of the media on packaging for certain high-volume CPG items is almost certainly greater than radio, print or outdoor advertising, and, in many cases, TV.

More to the point, none of those other media options is certain to reach only a product’s actual customers. And, once someone is in the store and staring at the array of options on the shelf, cause marketing on packaging may be the last way you can influence whether consumers choose your product or one of your many competitors.

Who’s doing it right and who’s not?

Almost all the cause marketing cognoscenti, with the possible exception of me, hated the KFC campaign Buckets for the Cure. The usual reason cited was that since fatty foods and obesity are a risk factor in breast cancer, KFC shouldn’t be supporting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. My take was that since relatively few obese people hang out at, say, yoga studios, you gotta reach people were they are. And, hello, KFC!

As packaging, the pink bucket was dynamite. The bucket was in three different shades of pink… the Colonel included… and impossible to miss. In darker pink type were the names of hundreds of women affected by breast cancer. The Komen logo was featured prominently, as was the Buckets for the Cure URL. The only thing missing was an explanation of the campaign.

McDonald’s has recently been in the news because all Happy Meals now include a package of apple dippers. If you order French fries with your Happy Meal, you get fewer fries than before. For some time now all Happy Meals have generated a donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The charity’s logo is small and the explanation is almost non existent. The Ronald McDonald House Charities is basically a federated charity that supports many more charities than just the local Ronald McDonald Houses, although it certainly does that too. I suspect that McDonald’s is happy to let you think that Ronald McDonald House Charities supports only the Ronald McDonald Houses. So to give further details would risk muddying the Ronald McDonald House Charities brand.

I can’t do the calculus it would require to compute the exact surface area of this Dominos Pizza box, but counting the bottom it’s better than 300 square inches. Given that, why can’t Dominos do more for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital than give up this little notch of a space at the front of the box that’s basically just 5.25 square inches? St. Jude’s logo and website URL are there, but there’s no room for any more than that. I found this especially puzzling since the bottom of the box is all but empty.

I was critical in this space of Dannon Yogurt’s me-to effort for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. But as cause marketing packaging, I think it’s an admirable. It’s a regular 6oz Dannon cup, but the foil lid is all pink, except for the company logo. There’s the pink ribbon emblematic of the fight against breast cancer, the charity logo, and an easy-to-understand explanation of how to trigger the donation by entering an online code printed on the bottom of the lid.

Coca-Cola’s down-market bottled water brand Aquarius Spring supports Boys and Girls Clubs of America, as evidenced by the terse phrase, “You Hydrate. We Donate.” It’s not visible in the picture, but there’s also a paragraph of information that explains the brand’s support. “Aquarius proudly supports Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Triple Play program, which promotes proper health, fitness and nutrition for children. Parents, learn how to create an active lifestyle for your kids at” That’s just 36 words, but there’s a call to action, a demonstration of the match between bottled water and the Boys and Girls Clubs and a hint at what Triple Play is about. On the whole, a nice effort.

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