Feature: A Great Cause…

Article By Astrid Zeppenfeld

Marketing a product or service can be tricky sometimes, especially if the product is a high-end consumer good and strictly designed to fulfill a want and not a need. A lot of strategic planning goes into researching the ideal market, designing the most eye-catching ad, establishing the best sales force, and out-performing the competition to maximize profits. How nice would it be if our products just basically sold themselves?

What if people came to our company for an event completely unrelated to our business, maybe even an event where they fully intended to spend quite a bit of money, and one of our products just caught their eye and triggered a purchase impulse? What if they actually bought that product while they are already at our location? Suppose, for example, that an IT business decides to hold their annual meeting at a high-end car dealership, as opposed to the usual hotel conference center where they have held their meetings in the past. Every well-paid management team member of this successful, international IT company is now walking past the new-body-style Porsche or Volvo several times in one day, going into the meeting, coming out of the meeting, and for any break in between. Maybe one or more of them are due for a new company car this year or they have a family member who really wants or needs a new car.

However, this kind of exposure does not have to be limited to making your business space available to other corporations for business events. Some companies choose to invite non-profit organizations to hold annual fundraisers at their facility instead.

Some high-end car dealerships have taken this idea and run, err…driven with it. There are several Missouri car dealerships who utilize cause marketing in their efforts to grow business.

Cause marketing is a term which developed out of a campaign by American Express back in 1983 when the company tried to raise money for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. It is also sometimes called “cause-related marketing” or CRM. So if you, like me, have always thought that CRM only stands for “customer relationship management”, no worries; a quick google search told me that we are in good company. Cause(-related) marketing entails a relationship between a non-profit and a for-profit organization, in which the for-profit company benefits by increasing its sales, while the non-profit organization benefits by having its cause promoted. It’s a win-win.

Imagine a car dealership that sells Jaguars. Once a year, the dealership moves all the cars out of the showroom and an organization
such as “The American Cancer Society” holds a fundraiser inside the showroom of the dealership. People who have the means to both donate money to The American Cancer Society, as well as purchase themselves luxury cars, are there. Sometime during the auction, one of them looks across the room and sees a Jaguar outside the showroom and he starts inquiring with the dealership staff about it. The rest could be history.

Missouri car dealerships who have hosted cause-related events in the past include Dave Mungenast Lexus and Autohaus BMW in the St. Louis area, as well as Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City. Autohaus BMW sponsors “Pedal for a Cause” and Mercedes- Benz, according to its website, collaborates with “Sleepyhead Beds”, an organization which makes sure kids always have a safe place to sleep. I had the chance to speak with Lisa Huber of Mungenast Lexus who was quite adamant that cause marketing is a mutually beneficial effort between a corporate entity and a non-profit organization. Her car dealership works with “Friends of Kids with Cancer” and annually hosts an event with them called Art from the Heart. The event raises both funds as well as simply plain awareness for the cause and kids who battle cancer. Natasha Wood, who is very involved in the organization as art therapist to the kids, expressed her thankfulness for Mungenast’s
cause marketing efforts:

“Friends of Kids with Cancer is incredibly grateful to Lisa Huber and all of the support from Mungenast Lexus. For eight years and counting, they have generously hosted Art From the Heart each September which features the artwork created by kids going through treatment for cancer. They take care of all the details and help put smiles of joy and pride on all the kids’ faces who share a part of their journey through their art. It is a fun festive evening which helps the kids to feel the love and support from their community. We are forever grateful.”

Lisa Huber sees cause marketing as “an opportunity to make the world a better place.” She also recognizes that, even though logistically it takes a lot of effort to make an event like this happen – clearing inventory out of the building, cleaning the building before and after the event, setup/breakdown of rentals, and staffing the event itself – they have had quite a few customers purchase cars due to the event. Although the ROI is not concretely measurable, Lisa cites a global study which concluded that “91 percent of consumers said they were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause” and “92 percent said they would buy a product with a social or environmental benefit given the opportunity.”
Have you considered the benefits of cause marketing for your business?

Do you have event space available?

If you answered yes to these two questions, then are you actively pursuing relationships with non-profit organizations for a good cause? Not sure which cause your business should support? There are so many good causes out there; this undertaking can feel overwhelming. Talk to other business leaders and find out which, if any, cause(s) they support. How does the competition fare in terms of ROI? Local newspapers/magazines can help give you ideas on whom to contact at various organizations.

Look for vendors who support the cause, too. If you and your vendors support the same cause, they might donate their time or product for your event. In the end, everyone feels good supporting those who are less fortunate. If business deals can be made at the same time, it’s a win all-around.


Astrid Zeppenfeld is an editor/writer from St. Louis

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.