Richards/Gravelle Refines Cause Marketing Efforts

DALLAS To help clients find charitable causes that match the interests of their target audiences, Richards/Gravelle Public Relations is launching a research process called CauseCentric Branding, the agency said.

The process is also designed to raise the profile of nonprofits among potential sponsors, according to Richards/Gravelle, an affiliate of the independent Richards Group in Dallas.

“For more than 28 years, our agency has been engaged in the work of endearing brands to people,” said Ruth Fitzgibbons, principal at Richards/Gravelle. “An increasingly important part of that work involves aligning those brands with causes that consumers care about.”

Richards executives point to work they have done for client Hyundai as an example of the process. To boost awareness of the automaker’s Hope on Wheels program, a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV toured the country collecting the handprints of children battling cancer. The 2004 tour made 17 stops, collecting nearly 200 handprints and generating more than 50 news stories valued at more than $365,000, the agency said. The tour will more than double in scope in 2005, according to Hyundai executives.

“Hyundai and its dealers had been supporting the fight against pediatric cancer for years, but had not done the best job in communicating its commitment to a wider audience,” said Chris Hosford, executive director of corporate communications for Hyundai Motor America. “Richards/Gravelle came up with a strong plan and an excellent idea while keeping the focus where it should be—on the kids. The company and dealers love Hope on Wheels.”

Other Richards/Gravelle campaigns have involved the Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the American Heart Association and the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Through research and workshops, the CauseCentric process helps clients match corporate values and beliefs to those of the target audience, the agency said. With those values and beliefs identified, the process then works to create cause-branding initiatives that are consistent with the client’s overall branding program.

“Cause marketing programs too often are unfocused and nonstrategic,” said David Gravelle, managing principal of Richards/Gravelle. “Brand sustainability requires consistent brand communication from every point of customer contact, and that includes social and community involvement initiatives. Only a company with true brand-building know-how, extensive experience in cause branding, and an understanding of the nonprofit mind-set can do this properly.”