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Trade Group Cause Marketing

Trade groups exist to provide service to their members; research and publications, marketing and branding, lobbying and training, tradeshows and meetings, and the like. And now, one other thing they can do is to enable members to cause market. At least, that’s what the Mushroom Council is doing with a Breast Cancer Awareness Month effort benefiting the cancer research hospital, City of Hope.

Wikipedia says there are 7,600 national trade groups in the United States. There are also trade associations at the regional, statewide, and local levels as well.

Here’s how the Mushroom Council’s efforts on behalf of City of Hope work:

“In total,” the Council has donated more than $800,000 to the City of Hope for “pilot clinical trials to support research on the potential cancer-fighting benefits of mushrooms.” Mushrooms are high in selenium and the City of Hope has identified a potential link between mushrooms and decreased cancer tumor growth in cells and animal tests.

The press release I read said that “the Council will provide $50,000 to City of Hope's research on breast cancer and mushrooms.” Based on my reading, I suspect that the total donation is from the Mushroom Council to the City of Hope is $800,000, not $850,000, although the exact amount isn’t clear.

The Mushroom Council encourages retailers to take these three steps to participate in the promotion:
  1. From mid-September through mid-November stock pink mushroom ‘tills’ in premium shelf spaces in-stores. A ‘till’ is industry-speak for the plastic, foam, or paper trays that mushrooms are typically packaged in.
  2. Activate or promote the program through all their usual outlets.
  3. Ask the store’s dietician or wellness expert to participate in some unspecified way  
Mushrooms are grown in basically every state, but about 60 percent of the nation’s annual crop comes from the state of Pennsylvania. So the Mushroom Council has to satisfy both an elephant, plus a lot of smaller operators.

Does this satisfy as a cause marketing effort?

Well, it scales very well. It’s probably not any harder to get pink tills to stores than it is to get black ones. It’s also no cost to the stores, which probably increases participation rates.

I don’t get the third step; “talk to your in-store dietician or wellness expert to join the promotion. Identify additional opportunities for your store.” Mushrooms, like most fresh produce, have anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. So that’s no special story. One exception is that mushrooms are basically the only item in the produce aisle that contains vitamin D. Mushrooms are also loaded with umami, the so-called fifth taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Umami is the rich savory taste you get from meats, cheeses, and, well, mushrooms.

The bigger story will be if the City of Hope or other researchers really find anti-cancer properties in mushrooms. Until and unless that happens, the role for a store’s dietician and wellness expert in a promotion like this seems muted to me.

In addition to the pink tills, it seems to me that there is a role here for a sticker that explains the pink packaging and the Council’s donation to the City of Hope.

Finally, I think there’s also a way for the local mushroom growers to be involved. It’s easy to imagine them sending chefs to do cooking segments on local morning or midday news shows. I can imagine local events like ‘mushroom week’ or cooking contests or some kind of pink till collection whereby each till gets redeemed for a local donation to some breast cancer outreach charity.


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