Charitable activities – don’t just give it away

The following is an excerpt from Market Vision 2000, a national study examining what it takes to have a relationship with consumers in the '90s.Charitable and Cause Related PrioritiesCancer Research 19%EnvironmentallyRelated Charities 13%United Way/Centraide 13%Abused/BatteredWomen 1 2%Poverty/Homelessness 11%AIDS Research 9%Salvation Army...

The following is an excerpt from Market Vision 2000, a national study examining what it takes to have a relationship with consumers in the ’90s.

Charitable and Cause Related Priorities

Cancer Research 19%

Environmentally

Related Charities 13%

United Way/Centraide 13%

Abused/Battered

Women 1 2%

Poverty/Homelessness 11%

AIDS Research 9%

Salvation Army 7%

Medical Research 7%

Source: Market Vision 2000 Study

Frequently, chief executive officers have been heard to comment:

‘We seem to give a lot of funds to good causes and no one seems to know about our commitment to the community  I don’t feel we are getting a great deal in return.’

There are many reasons for this comment.

However, the main reason is that few companies think of their charitable and cause-related activities as part of the marketing mix.

Hence, there is no real strategy for company involvement, or, just as ineffective, the strategy is executive, rather than market-driven.

The Market Vision 2000 study, a survey of 1,000 Canadian consumers, clearly shows that consumers want to understand what the companies marketing to them are all about.

In fact, the consumer of the ’90s demands to understand the nature of those who wish to do business with them.

Those companies that are not forthcoming with this information, and strategic in their associations and involvements, will become increasingly irrelevant to the consumer.

The first step in the development of a strategic involvement strategy, including events, is to have a clear understanding of the consumer’s priorities.

Findings reveal that on a national basis, the agenda for Canadian consumers is topped by cancer research (19%), environment-related charities (13%), United Way/Centraide (13%), abused/ battered women (12%), poverty/homelessness (11%) and aids research (9%.)

For the mass marketers, the implications are clear.

Provided a company can attain recognition and create visibility for its involvements, cancer research would appear to be the logical focus.

However, should a firm not be donating large sums, it may wish to find a focus for its cause-related activities that is more targetted and allows for the achievement of visibility at less cost.

Or, it may associate itself with a particular area of cancer research such as the Royal Bank, which has claimed breast cancer.

One must be careful when it comes to aligning causes to market segments. Today, there are few true mass marketers.

From a geographic perspective, a focus on cancer research makes a great deal of sense among anglophones (24%), but the same cannot be said for such a focus in Quebec (5%.)

Not only are there geographic differences, there are many other differences in the consumer agenda as a function of such issues as age, sex, education and income.

Not only do marketers and communicators need to be sensitive to consumers’ priorities, they must recognize that the agenda may vary as a function of which segment(s) of the marketplace make up their consumer base.

Finally, no matter how strategic and ‘right-headed’ the involvement, today’s consumer must be communicated to, and must arrive at the conclusion that the corporate commitment is sincere and long term, not a short-term ‘flavor of the month’ reaction.

If the commitment is not long term and sincere, the company will pay a severe price with today’s consumers.

Greg White is president of Market Vision, a Toronto-based company specializing in communications, research and strategy. More information about the Market Vision 2000 study is available at (416) 364-4040.