By David Hessekiel
Thousands of programs designed to do well by doing good have been launched by businesses and nonprofits over the last 30 years. Many have been short-term and pedestrian, while others have been inspiring and impactful.
I’ve tried to identify the most influential cause marketing campaigns. My hope is to educate and be educated by inspiring a dialogue on the most outstanding work in this field.
1. American Express Statue of Liberty Restoration (1983): During a three-month period, American Express offered to contribute 1 cent for each card transaction and $1 for each new card issued and backed the offer with a substantial media campaign. The effort raised $1.7 million to restore the statue and Ellis Island, moved the needle for Amex’s business and gave birth to the field of cause marketing.
2. Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives (1999 to present): This has become one of America’s best-known breast cancer campaigns. The fact that consumers save and mail in millions of sticky lids to raise 10 cents each to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure is testimony to cause marketing’s motivational power. Yoplait does a masterful job of integrating this transactional program with its sponsorship of Komen’s Race for the Cure, continually refines the initiative and supports it with paid and earned media. To date it has raised more than $26 million.
3. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (2004 to present): Unilever didn’t adopt a cause; it created one with breakthrough creative that sparked an international discussion of beauty stereotypes. It developed the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and hopes to reach 5 million young women with information on positive body image by the end of 2010.
4. 1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days (2005 to 2008): The Home Depot and KaBOOM took employee volunteerism to new heights with this national three-year program to build great places for kids to play within walking distance of their homes.
5. The Members Project (2007 to 2008): Promotions that ask consumers to direct corporate giving are growing common, but American Express pioneered the use of social media and buttressed brand appreciation with this effort. Over two years it gave away $4.5 million, including top winners the Alzheimer’s Association and U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
6. Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity (2004 to 2007): The appliance maker transformed its previously little-known commitment to provide a range and refrigerator for each Habitat home built in the U.S. into a major driver of brand loyalty with a multimedia campaign featuring Reba McEntire. What’s more, they did all cause marketers a favor by measuring and sharing the impressive results.
7. Lee National Denim Day (1996 to the present): A traditionally male brand, Lee made huge inroads with women by embracing the breast cancer cause in a unique way: It empowered consumers to organize workplace drives at which employees contributed $5 for the right to wear jeans to work on the first Friday in October. Over 13 years, the program has raised nearly $75 million for breast cancer research and advocacy.
8. Product (Red) (2006 to the present): Founders Bono and Bobby Shriver boldly threw out the cause-marketing rule book to create (Red). Their privately held company created and licensed a hot brand to The Gap, Apple, Armani and other marketers and staged an unprecedented launch. Although often criticized for a lack of transparency, (Red) has raised more than $140 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and continues to attract new corporate licensees such as Nike and Starbucks.
9. Live Strong Bracelet (2004 to present): When the Nike and Lance Armstrong Foundation came up with this idea to raise funds and awareness for the supercyclist’s cancer charity, no one dreamed it would become a worldwide fashion item worn by presidential candidates, movie stars, kids and grandmothers. To date, more than 70 million of the glorified yellow rubber bands have been sold for $1 each.
10. What did I miss? What do you think are the most influential cause marketing campaigns of all time? Share your insights in the comments below.