Recently, one of the major supermarket chains down here in Australia ran a promotional campaign whereby shoppers earned vouchers which were able to be used by their local schools to purchase sporting equipment.
Cleverly designed on a number of levels, the program delivered real benefits to the company itself as well as local communities.
The Sports for Schools program was a recent initiative of Coles Supermarkets, the second largest supermarket chain in my home country of Australia.
Under the program, which ran from early September until the end of October, shoppers were able to earn vouchers (worth one ‘point’) for every ten dollars which they spent. These vouchers were then able be taken to local schools, who were able to use them to purchase new sporting equipment.
The program was well received. According to the company’s web site, more than 7,400 schools chose to participate
Why the program was so good
Coles’ approach is hardly revolutionary, and I would imagine that programs along similar lines would be reasonably common in retail outlets throughout many parts of the world.
Still, the program was extremely well designed. There were a number of aspects about it which stand out:
• Making customers notice by getting them involved.
By involving customers in the process, Coles generated a high level of interest and awareness in what it was doing – far more than would have been the case had the company chosen to simply donate the equipment directly.
• Making customers feel empowered.
By having customers ‘earn’ their vouchers (and then by having customers go themselves to their local school to donate the vouchers), Coles made it seem almost as if it was the customers themselves who were achieving something for their schools – with the company merely empowering them to do so.
This is important. The desire for empowerment is a natural human craving. By empowering shoppers to achieve something worthwhile, the company has strengthened customer relationships far more than would have been possible had customers not been involved in the process.
• Direct link to customer purchases.
By awarding one voucher for every ten dollars spent, Coles created a direct incentive for customers to make additional purchases.
A customer whose bill added to say, $78.50, for example, might well have been tempted to buy something extra in order to get the bill up above $80 and thereby earn eight vouchers rather than seven.
• Giving an incentive to shop at Coles.
Moreover, the program gave customers an incentive to shop at Coles rather than rival supermarkets.
At Coles, shoppers could earn vouchers for their children’s schools. At rival supermarkets, they could not.
• Local benefits for local children.
CSR programs which provide tangible benefits to local children will always have a strong impact on customer relations.
For parents, it is natural to feel particularly strongly about immediate issues affecting their own children. And even for many who do not have their own kids, children within the local community represent something special.
Also, tangible items (like sporting equipment) distributed locally are more easily noticed by consumers than the provision of any benefits which are less tangible or which are provided outside of local areas.
• Physical education – an increasing area of importance.
Another area in which Coles have done well relates to their choice of cause to support.
With children spending more and more time on computers and watching television, parents are becoming increasingly anxious about their children getting sufficient levels of exercise and physical activity.
(There may be good reason to worry. A recent study by the World Health Organization, which analysed 72,845 children across North and South America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, found that only one quarter of boys and 15% of girls were getting ‘sufficient’ levels of exercise – more than one hour per day, five days per week. The study also found that a quarter of boys and 30% of girls were ‘sedentary’ – spending three or more hours per day on the computer, watching television or chatting with friends.) (Reuters, Mar 10, 2010)
For this reason, any efforts supermarkets make to promote or encourage participation in sport or physical education will be increasingly well received by consumers.
More broadly, given the desire on the part of parents to see their children get the best possible start in life possible, efforts to promote education of any kind will always be popular.