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The following is an online exclusive and companion piece to Forces for Good, which appears in PG's October issue.
As consumers grow ever more tech-savvy, the online component of cause marketing efforts at retail is set to grow larger.
"It's possible social media will have a greater role in our cause marketing in the years ahead," said Gretchen Suydan, director of marketing at Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets, which engages in many corporate responsibility activities, most of them currently involving in-store promotions.
Matt Prescott, food policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society, sees "more and more companies … beginning to use social media as a means of reaching customers with their cause marketing efforts. Companies like Campbell, Aramark and even Burger King, for example, are tweeting and posting to Facebook about Meatless Mondays."
Still, the latest technology should serve only to strengthen the most basic human bonds. "Through the use of mobile and digital media, actual videos of their team participating in charitable events, showing their products being made, interviews with teammates on how it impacts their lives, and so much more, consumers can see the genuine enthusiasm of a company literally put their own time and hard work into helping a charity," notes Amy Armstrong, VP of marketing for Café Valley Bakery, a Phoenix-based provider of in-store bakery products.
Other important trends going forward include ensuring that a cause has particular meaning for those who get behind it, as well as giving participants various ways of getting involved. "Having a local tie to any cause campaign will continue to be important for grocers and grocery suppliers," notes Victor Zaborsky, marketing director at Washington, D.C.-based Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). "Giving shoppers an opportunity to make a direct impact in their local communities helps to personalize the cause."
Adds Zaborsky: "Customization is another important feature of a cause marketing campaign that could continue to play a large role in retailers' cause-related efforts. By offering retailers a chance to activate across multiple channels and customize a program to fit their needs, a philanthropic effort can go much further."
Speaking of evolutionary cause marketing, a highlight of Wholesum Family Farms' efforts in this arena is its extensive Fair Trade activities in Mexico, which the Nogales, Ariz.-based organic produce supplier publicizes on its website. According to VP Marketing and Sales Ricardo Crisantes, Wholesum has accomplished the following:
- Its Appliance Program's laundry center project, aimed at working mothers so they can use their days off performing activities other than washing, is attended by 40 people per week, with 258 people able to access the service. At the center, a person can deliver up to 10 kilograms of clothes to be washed for a small fee, which goes to buy detergent, softener and other laundry needs. Wholesum is planning to install a second laundry center.
- The program's refrigeration project started with only 12 coolers; Wholesum currently has 19. Now 155 people, 75 of whom are workers, have access to food-conserving refrigeration.
- Wholesum's Education Program provides a computer center where kids can receive instruction from a teacher. About 80 children attend per week. The company has also conducted two computer courses for adults who wanted to learn basic computing.
- The program's scholarship project is currently aiding 38 students: 35 elementary and middle schoolers, and three high schoolers. Scholarships are given in the form of monthly stipends to each student, who must have a minimum GPA of 80 percent to be eligible.
- The Fair Trade committee, which comprises workers who select which programs to fund, bought a bus to assist in the transportation of students to school, driving mothers to the supermarket, or taking the camp population to participate in cultural endeavors on the weekends. Using funds that come from the premium paid by consumers for Wholesum produce, the committee plans to purchase a second bus to meet demand.
- Further Fair Trade initiatives currently under consideration at Wholesum include a dental program, and a sports program that would provide uniforms and equipment for soccer, basketball and volleyball games.
"Our [retail] customers and the consumers that trade with them ultimately support the cause and wholeheartedly buy our products to be a part of it," says Crisantes, adding that all of Wholesum's company-owned growing operations are Fair Trade Certified.