Campbell’s Charity Push Counters Gloom

Times are tough, but Campbell Soup Co. is betting consumers will still consider philanthropy when making their buying decisions. Campbell has revamped its Labels for Education program, which donates equipment and educational supplies to schools upon receipt of qualifying soup proof of purchases. The effort is the first makeover for the 36-year corporate giving platform, which has relationships with 75 percent of U.S. schools. Whereas the old Labels for Education logo featured a Campbell soup kid wearing a graduation cap, the new design is less Campbell-branded to allow for increased brand partnerships, said Mike Salzberg, head of Campbell Sales Co. Third quarter sales fell 10 percent to $1.69 billion, but the maker of Chunky and Select Harvest soups is confident it can up consumption via the program’s relaunch. To get the word out, Campbell is kicking off an aggressive back-to-school campaign in August. Salzberg chatted with Brandweek about the redesign.

Brandweek: How has the Labels for Education program changed over the years? And why the makeover? 
Mike Salzberg: We’ve refreshed it, played with it, added and subtracted [from the program over the years]. As for a complete makeover, this is the first time we’ve done that. We wanted to freshen it up and really focus on the research that we’ve done: Schools are getting a lack of support around three big topics: arts, athletics and academics.

The old Labels for Education was really around the [donation of] equipment and materials. This is a more broad-based approach to what we believe schools need. And at this economic time, we thought it was the best opportunity to reinvigorate and up our investment. We’ve put more time and dollars behind it and extended its reach to make a broader case for schools.

BW: How much did Campbell Soup Co. donate under the old Labels for Education program?
MS: In the 36 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve donated over $110 million back to schools just in redemption alone. It’s big and it’s a platform for advertising. It’s what Campbell Soup Co. is all about as far as being the fabric of American cupboards. And this is our way to unite and give back to our strongest consumers.

The old logo featured a little Campbell kid with a graduation hat. The new logo (Labels for Education in red and white letters, and the words, “Arts. Athletics. Academics” underneath) is less Campbell-branded. Why so?

MS: The logo was very heavily Campbell-branded. We’ve never gone outside as far as sharing it or getting other partners. But now we believe there is an opportunity for partnerships, starting with one we’ve formed with the Grammy Foundation. They’ve got a wonderful school program, and music is their major effort [at a time when] music is being taken away, like everything else, in schools. [The partnership kicks off in September; schools can score a performance by a Grammy artist via a promo in fall 2009.]

BW: Any other updates?

MS: We are doing some e-labeling—people are redeeming online versus having to tear the labels off. It appeals to a very heavy millennial and younger set. We found [redemption rates by] grandparents going online is up double-digit percentages because now they’re able to send labels to their grandkids in any state.

BW: What other partnerships are you seeking?
MS: We are actively looking for people that have the same kind of passion around education and arts, athletics and academics and a lot of companies specialize in one or all three of those. We are looking to take this and make it as “big” as we can with our new thought process and our new look.

BW: Why would a relaunch like this resonate with consumers now?
MS: In a troubled economy, being able to collect and win and free stuff in places where they’re taking things away [works]. It’s like how it was in the 1970s, when we lived in the time of the Green Stamps, which people were collecting. It was a way to put money back where things were taken out. We are back in that environment. We’ve been designing the program for the last three years. We’ve been taking it back to our coordinators, to our shopper marketing agency [MARS Advertising], to make sure we got it right. When you have jewel like that of 36 years, we don’t take it lightly. We think it complements the brand, it’s the right economic time, and it’s a good way for Campbell Soup Co. to give back.

BW: What would you say is the program’s lifeblood?
MS: We have 40,000 Labels for Education coordinators throughout the country. They are made up of parents, volunteers, teachers and community members. They are kind of the CEO of that school for the Labels for Education program, someone who is trying to coordinate and bring together all of the labels at the school for a certain program they want to get.

This program is so flexible. It basically can go school by school, district by district, state by state…It has a huge following, and it really resonates with students, parents and grandparents across the country. We think it’s one of those great American traditions in schools that have been with people for generations.