Retailers are commemorating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a range of cause marketing efforts
Kroger shoppers perusing the cereal aisle this month are likely to be met with the smile of 40-year-old employee Tracy Head. But not because she's punching the clock.
Tracy's picture is appearing on boxes of Kellogg's Special K cereal distributed in Kroger stores throughout the country. Although she lacks the fame of those for whom cereal box positioning is usually reserved, her story is just as triumphant as any star athlete's. Tracy is a breast cancer survivor.
The boxes represent one of many cause marketing efforts the Cincinnati-based retailer is making to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“During our October ‘Giving Hope A Hand’ Campaign, $2.5 million will be raised to support breast cancer initiatives in communities where Kroger operates,” said Meghan Glynn, spokeswoman for the chain.
Pink tags will help shoppers identify items they can purchase to help support the cause. They include those that are a part of Kroger's Private Selection line; Coca-Cola's Powerade and Minute Maid brands; General Mills products under the Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Green Giant labels; and Kraft products.
Donations won't be tied to individual purchases; instead, Kroger and its partners have committed to donating a flat $2.5 million.
Earlier this year, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Kroger held a similar promotion and raised $500,000. The Komen organization is dedicated to fighting breast cancer through education, research, screening and treatment programs.
Breast cancer is a popular cause for retailers, since it strikes an emotional chord with their main consumer demographic, noted Julia Hobbs Kivistik, executive vice president of cause branding for consultancy Cone Inc., Boston.
“It's important to get behind something that aligns authentically with who you are as a company,” she said. “Showing how emotionally relevant you can be drives loyalty. And the clarity with which you communicate exactly how efforts will benefit a cause will determine how deep that loyalty will be.”
Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., developed a tangible way to show shoppers that their fund-raising efforts paid off.
In July, it put $1 million worth of funds raised during a monthlong effort toward the purchase and two-year maintenance of a mammography van. The mobile unit is run by the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and travels to locations where it can best serve area women who might not otherwise have access to a mammogram.
“Women living in the state of Washington have higher rates of breast cancer compared to the rest of the country,” said Dr. Connie Lehman, director of breast imaging at SCCA.
Women age 40 and over should have routine mammograms to screen for breast cancer, the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women.
Last week, Safeway announced that it's donating $500,000 to help support a 48-foot mobile mammography unit that's run by St. Joseph's Medical Center in Northern California.
“St. Joseph's has had that vehicle for years, but it needed money to expand the counties it will travel to and the number of days of the week it will operate,” said Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill. The retailer also funds two mobile units in Alaska.
Money for the western Washington unit was raised during a monthlong campaign supported by the Seattle Division of Safeway, employees, customers and a Safeway Foundation grant.
“We collected money with canisters, held chili recipe contests, hosted barbecues, had yard sales — any way you can think of to raise money,” said Cherie Myers, director of public and government affairs for the Seattle Division, speaking of employees and customers. “I've been with this company for 38 years, and I just couldn't be prouder of everyone for coming together, what a celebration. If a customer donated 6 cents, we needed that 6 cents — every penny, nickel and dime add up, and now everyone is a winner.”
One Safeway employee hand-stitched quilts for a raffle, while associates from the Dominick's Chicagoland store contributed recipes to the “Cooking for a Cure” cookbook, which raised $64,000.
This month, the fruits of these labors will be on display in parking lots of western Washington-area Safeway stores for employee and shopper tours. On days when it's not conducting these tours, the 40-foot self-contained clinic that bears the Safeway logo will continue to serve between 20 and 30 women a day with equipment so new it had to be approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. In-store signage displays the 800 number women can call to make an appointment.
Although the van takes health insurance, it will not turn away those who cannot pay.
“If they don't have [insurance], we'll do our best to work with them and find coverage,” said SCCA spokesman Dean Forbes. The alliance chooses van destinations that include Safeway parking lots and University of Washington outpatient clinics.
“It's visited five locations so far, and each time it's been totally full,” said Myers.
This year Safeway has come up with a number of ways for shoppers and employees to help it reach its most ambitious fund-raising goal to date: $25 million. The retailer raised $8.3 million last year and $25 million in funds since 2001.
“We have a campaign in place where if a customer purchases certain items, proceeds will benefit our breast cancer campaign,” noted Massingill. Among them are Melissa Etheridge's CD “The Awakening.” One dollar from each sale of the CD will benefit Safeway's breast cancer program.
Safeway shoppers are also given the opportunity to donate at each checkstand and receive a pink ribbon or wristband indicating their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The retailer also sponsors 10 Susan G. Komen for the Cure “Race for the Cure” foot races in local communities. Distribution of race forms and the formation of teams that include customers, employees and friends are part of its commitment. “It's a cash sponsorship, and we support the events with snacks for the racers,” said Massingill.
Retailers who support breast cancer-related causes are hitting the mark, as health remains the leading issue Americans want companies to address (80%), followed by education, environment and economic development, which all tied for second place (77%) in the 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey. The vast majority of respondents also believe that companies have a responsibility to help support causes (83%) and acknowledge that they have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about (92%).
Manufacturers that have linked their products to causes are likely to influence even more trial this month than during previous years' promotions. The survey finds that Americans are more likely than ever to switch from one brand to another (when price and quality are about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause, representing an increase of more than 31% from 66% since 1993.
This month marks the second year that Campbell's Soup has transformed the iconic red-and-white cans traditionally used to contain its two fastest-moving varieties in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During October, 14 million pink-and-white cans of condensed tomato and chicken noodle soup will be sold in about 15,000 stores.
Campbell has dramatically expanded its campaign since last year, when about 7 million specially labeled Campbell's Soup cans were distributed exclusively through Kroger stores.
This year's participating retailers ordered at least a single pallet per store, noted Campbell's spokesman John Faulkner. They include Albertsons, Giant Eagle, Price Chopper, Hannaford Bros., Meijer, Nash Finch, Piggly Wiggly, Raley's, Stater Bros., Wegmans, ShopRite, Supervalu and a host of others.
“Beginning [this week] we ask that they're sold on promotion for at least one week or longer at either five for $3 or 10 for $6,” said Faulkner. “The pallets and cases are pink, so most retailers are just dropping them right in the store.”
Although sales of individual cans won't be specifically linked to charitable giving, Campbell has pledged to donate $300,000 to various breast cancer-related groups.
Campbell chose this particular cause because “it's good timing, with the soup season, and the person buying our soup is typically a woman,” Faulkner said. “We want to demonstrate that we share her concern and support a cause.”
Yoplait yogurt is also altering the look of its packaging again this month as part of its nine-year-old Save Lids to Save Lives promotion.
From September through the end of this month, Yoplait 6-ounce and 4-ounce yogurt cups in Original, Light, Thick & Creamy, Light Thick & Creamy and Whips! varieties will have special pink foil lids consumers can send in to raise funds for breast cancer research. Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for every lid sent in, up to a maximum amount of $1.5 million, with a guaranteed minimum $500,000 donation.
In Columbus, Ohio, Kroger stores, $1 from the sale of each reusable grocery bag, which retails for $3.49, will go to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research during October.