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Cause Marketing in Your Grocer's Aisles

A recent trip to the grocery store turned into an opportunity to scope out some packaged goods cause marketing.

I started near the bakery side of the store and then made my way to drinks aisle, looking for cause marketing wherever I could find it.

Here are 14 that caught my eye. 

505 Southwestern

This is a simple transactional cause marketing effort that runs year-round. By transactional cause marketing I mean that when you buy the jar, it triggers a donation to an unnamed breast cancer cause (or causes). Normally, this would require the consent of the cause. But since 505 uses only the pink ribbon, which is not trademarked/copyrighted, no permission is required. Although 505 would be prudent to report on its website the amounts donated to which causes.

Kitchen Basics Beef Stock

This product carries a seal of approval from the American Heart Association. The most famous such seals are the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and the American Dental Association seal. Generally you get a seal when you demonstrate that the product meets guidelines set by the granting organization. Sometimes this can be very rigorous. The Good Housekeeping Seal includes an insurance policy of sorts, so their standards are quite high. Also, all seals have a fee associated with them, which can be pretty hefty.

Dr. Pepper Let’s Play

Let’s Play is a program founded by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group to encourage the physical activity of kids and families. I assume that this is partly a defensive measure. In that formulation Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is looking down the road 10 or 15 years expecting that sugary soft drinks will be regulated like tobacco in the United States. The goal of the 3-year-effort is to build or fix up 2,000 playgrounds in conjunction with the nonprofit KaBoom! Effectively it gives Dr. Pepper Snapple Group a little coverage, enabling them to say to policy makers and regulators something like, “from 2010 to 2013, we helped 5 million kids to be more active by building or renovating thousands of playgrounds.”

Betty Crocker Supreme Bars

The Betty Crocker brand is owned by General Mills, which is the founding sponsor of Box Tops for Education. For every Box Top redeemed through schools, that school gets $0.10. Box Tops runs year-round. Since 1996, Box Tops has donated more that $445 million in cash to the nation’s schools. It’s real money and most schools have a secretary or PTA official whose job is to help collect and manage the school’s Box Tops redemption. For several years now General Mills has invited participation from non-competing brands.

My Coke Rewards

Strictly speaking My Coke Rewards isn’t a cause marketing effort, it’s a loyalty program. But it warrants mention here because you can transfer your reward points to causes like the American Cancer Society, the USO, the National Parks Foundation, and others. The Coca-Cola product Sprite has used the My Coke Rewards platform to build new school playgrounds. Based on a sweepstakes-style promotion, consumers were asked to nominate a school. Winning schools got $25,000. 

Diet Coke, The Heart Truth

Although most people are surprised by this, it’s a fact that many more women in the United States die of heart disease than breast cancer. Diet Coke’s support of The Heart Truth, a campaign developed by the National Institutes for Health, is largely one of raising awareness. But you can also donate My Coke Rewards points to The Heart Truth campaign.

Keebler Be a Good Cookie for the
American Red Cross Blood Donation

In the United States the Red Cross has a Congressionally-mandated mission to be a first responder to national emergency situations. It’s also in charge of the nation’s blood supply. This cause marketing effort is primarily meant to raise awareness of the continual need for blood donations. But Keebler also donates a cookie to everyone who donates blood to the American Red Cross. Keebler figures that will come to about 6 million cookies.

Honest Kids

Honest Kids are juice packs from the company Honest Tea. They offer a tree planting effort in partnership with the National Arbor Day Foundation, a tree-planting charity. When you send in the UPC codes from 5 Honest Kids 8-pack boxes and $2, the Arbor Day Foundation will send you a seedling tree to plant.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter for Feeding America

ConAgra, which owns the Peter Pan peanut butter brand, is a major supporter of Feeding America, the anti-hunger charity. Feeding America is basically a consortium of the nation’s local food banks. It secures in-kind donations from large food companies and sponsorships like this one. Like the 505 Southwestern, this is a transactional cause marketing effort. Every jar of Peter Pan yields one meal that is redeemed when you enter the code on the jar.

Kellogg’s Smart Start Cereal

Like the Peter Pan promotion, Kellogg’s Smart Start is promoting a feeding effort, called Share Your Breakfast - Share Hope. Share Hope is Kellogg’s own effort, there is no one charity that Kellogg’s benefits, although the breakfasts are distributed via local food banks. Its focus is on sharing breakfasts with children. There’s several aspects to Share Hope, but the overall goal is to share one million breakfasts during the promotional period. The Smart Start promotion offers a collector’s spoon for $3 and one UPC code. Each spoon purchased yields one breakfast.

Kroger Bringing Hope to the Table

Bringing Hope is another feeding effort, this time from retail giant Kroger. The goal is 25 million meals and the way they go about it is in co-promotions with its vendors. Typically the way these promotions work is that Kroger requires some kind of fee and in exchange the vendor gets preferred placement in the store. This was on an end-cap near the dairy side of the store on the front-end. The vendor might also get placement in the weekly flier. Part of the money that Kroger generates goes to providing the 25 million meals.

Swanson’s Beef Stock

This is another label-clipping effort that benefits local schools called Labels for Education. ‘Labels’ was founded years before Box Tops. The major difference is that ‘Labels’ are redeemed for points, instead of cash. Schools accumulate points and can order from an online catalog of several thousand items. Like Box Tops, non-competing brands are invited to participate.

Newman’s Own

Newman’s Own is what’s called an ‘all-benefits company.’ It’s a for-profit that exists solely so as to pay out profits after taxes to worthy charities, hence its slogan “All Profits to Charity.” Since 1982, the company has donated more than $330 million to charities. Another all-benefits company is Geoffrey Beene, which sells fashion goods for men and women.

Nature Valley Granola Thins 

Nature Valley is another General Mills brand that’s had an ongoing sponsorship relationship with two causes. One is the National Parks Conservation Association and the other is youth golf, believe it or not. This promotion with its Granola Thins product has two parts. Nature Valley will donate a guaranteed $300,000 to the National Parks Conservation Association. And, for every, UPC code redeemed online, it will donate an extra $1 up to $200,000. The total donation could thereby total $500,000. Nature Valley also created a video ‘trail view’ of 330 miles of prominent National Park trails using a technique similar to Google Streetview, and then put them online.   


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