How Your Gift-Buying Habits Can Change Lives As is my habit, I spent some time shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend. Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quite like being pushed and shoved or standing in long lines to make a purchase I've convinced myself wouldn't be available if I waited even another hour. I always go home feeling as though I've accomplished something just short of amazing. Well, it turns out this year, maybe I did. I couldn't help but notice during my mall crawl how much more cause-related marketing there seems to be than ever before. Everywhere I turned I saw signs telling me that a certain percentage of the purchase price will be donated to a specific cause. Some stores carried the magnifying glass symbol that we've come to know as a sign that the company supports St. Jude's Research. (Marlo Thomas has worked tirelessly to spread the word, appearing on countless talk shows and in frequent TV commercials.) Other stores offered everything from rubber bracelets (ala Lance Armstrong's Live Strong bracelet) to free lapel pins with a purchase, to an actual price tag advertisement explaining where the money goes. Apparently, many companies are finally getting the message: aligning with a worthy cause actually helps to grow business. That's not just intuition talking, by the way. According to Business for Social Responsibility, there is increasing evidence that companies that contribute to their communities see an increase in profitability, employee retention, customer loyalty, and increased brand reputation. Some companies have even reported that cause-related marketing has resulted in more innovation within the company. People like feeling connected to a mission. They want to believe the work they produce or the products they buy have relevance beyond just themselves. A recent study by Deloitte and Touche bears this out. Some 72 percent of respondents said that if they had the opportunity to choose between two companies in the same location, all things being equal, they would choose the one that contributed to charitable causes. Hitching your wagon to a cause should be a strategic decision. It's nice to ask everyone to bring in a toy once a year, but that's not what I'm advocating here. True corporate philanthropy isn't an event - it's a philosophy and strategy that transcends a specific holiday season or a single catastrophy. What is your company doing to expand its relevance beyond just providing excellent service or a top notch product? Whether you call it corporate philanthropy or cause-related marketing, it's important to think this issue through and make wise decisions. I recommend you poll your employees to explore what is important to them in terms of contributing to the community. Find out what they care about when they're not at the office. Generate enthusiasm and commitment by soliciting ideas and conducting extensive research on the best way to implement the suggestions. This year, while you're out shopping, pay attention to ways companies are aligning themselves with charities. It may give you just the inspiration and push you need to make your own move.


At November 29, 2005 4:03 PM, Blogger Chris Clarke-Epstein said...

Who knew that shopping could be all that significant! Grreat reminder, Marilynn

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At January 01, 2006 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen Target's web site lately?- Grantmaking guidelines, Volunteer Opport., Partnerships, Scholarships, etc.
Throughout holidays radio campaign in this area promoting their store-based grants giving back 2 million/week. Makes IBM look cheesy these days.


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