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When the Going Gets Tough, P&G Gets Philanthropic

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Procter & Gamble, which has made the “value” argument to consumers in this down economy, is adding another one: Buy our products and some of the money will go to charity.

The company’s expanded embrace of cause marketing comes as P&G and charities alike feel the heat from the recession. P&G’s second quarter total sales fell 3.2 percent to $20.4 billion.
 
The latest manifestation of the strategy is this month’s brandSaver monthly coupon booklet, which is distributed to 50 million households. The booklet promotes the largest number of charity programs it ever has: three. Consumers who redeem coupons for brands like Tampax, Always, Pampers and PUR water filters will also be indirectly contributing to causes related to the brands.

P&G rep Glenn Williams said the company is putting a renewed focus on cause marketing. “It goes without saying that reframing the value equation is of tremendous importance to nearly all businesses these days,” he said. BrandSaver, in particular, “enables the consumer to do something good, something right, in these difficult times, and we think there’s real value in that.”

The topic was top-of-mind for many P&Gers during a recent company discussion on value. Held in Cincinnati, the panel included bringing in outside influencers—namely, a mommy blogger, a financial expert and a celebrity stylist—to brainstorm different ways of defining value in the current economic times. Several participants brought up the need to leverage cause marketing, but only on brands for which it made sense. (All three programs contained in this month’s brandSaver exist independent of the coupon booklet. An initiative linking Pampers to the prevention of neonatal tetanus, for instance, was founded in 2006.)

Scott Beaudoin, cause marketing director at global communications firm MS&L, applauded the effort, noting that what P&G has done is bring together three charities that exist outside of the brandSaver context under a common theme. The shift aligns with the current consumer focus on “value” (product-focused) with a corporation’s “values” (social activism).

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