Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brand Loyalty: Avon's Cause-Related Marketing

For those who don’t know, Avon is a cosmetics company dedicated to the betterment of women’s lives through beauty, health, fitness, and self-empowerment. The company has a very well known, worldwide Avon breast cancer campaign, which has raised over $660 million in over 50 countries. Avon has developed and implemented a very important cause-related marketing campaign for breast cancer awareness, which has helped increase brand loyalty. Choosing this cause was important for Avon because it is something that resonates very personally with its target audience - women.

According to its website, Avon has a history of CRM dating back to 1942 when the company began donating 40% of its output to military manufacturing. This move was strategic because the war was a current event that was affecting every American citizen in some way.

In 1989, the company launched its first breast cancer awareness campaign in the U.K, with a U.S. launch the following year, enlisting over 500,000 sales representatives to raise awareness and funds through the “pink ribbon” product line. For every purchase of a “pink ribbon,” product, a percentage of the sales went to breast cancer awareness and fundraising. Over the years, that percentage has varied, and is currently at 68% of the sale price.

The most important part of Avon’s cause-related marketing is the company’s choice of cause. Avon describes itself as an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women. With such a clearly defined vision for the betterment of women, and product lines that are created for women, it was imperative that Avon chose a cause that resonated with women. Considering that there is a new breast cancer diagnosis every three minutes and a life lost to breast cancer every 14 minutes, breast cancer was a logical choice for Avon (

Avon achieved its loyal customer clientele, in part, because of its connection with a cause that is important to many women. Avon aligned its whole company with the cause. Breast cancer’s color is pink; so is Avon’s, which helps to remind consumers of Avon’s dedication to the cause. Avon created a three-day walk for the fight against breast cancer, which takes places annually in different locations across the United States. This is directly linked to the company because the highly publicized event is titled “Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.” This name is plastered across banners, signs, blogs, websites, T-shirts, bags, pens, water bottles, etc. The brand is everywhere and it’s associated with an admirable and necessary cause, which resonates strongly with Avon’s customer base.

In the CEO’s message on the corporate Avon site, she mentions the Avon Foundation’s dedication to breast cancer awareness within the first paragraph. The bottom line is that Avon works hard to make sure no one ever forgets its dedication to bettering the lives of women and the fight against breast cancer. Whether you are on its corporate site seeing links to the breast cancer campaign, or on the Avon Foundation website with links to the corporate site; the two are branded together. Avon’s name is plastered all over the Foundation’s page. And if you type in breast cancer awareness on, you’d find that three of the top ten hits are related to Avon. That’s successful CRM.

A good marketing campaign is especially important for Avon because it is a direct seller company, so it needs to be creative in how it reaches consumers. Reaching women through breast cancer awareness drives them to the Avon site and creates a sense of familiarity and trustworthiness with the brand.

Avon cements its brand loyalty through the telling of personal stories. On the Avon Foundation site, people have the opportunity to share about their experience with breast cancer, whether that is fighting it personally, or participating in a walk in support of someone else. With the Avon name at the top of the page, or in the corner of a video, the Avon brand is even further engrained into the viewer as they connect with the brand through an emotional appeal. An emotional connection is a strong way to build brand loyalty.

Cause-related marketing can be a highly-effective tool for increasing brand loyalty. Avon did it best by choosing a cause that was important to its audience. That’s my PR thought for the day.

All information regarding Avon was found on Avon's corporate website, I am in no way affiliated with Avon

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Value of True Brand Loyalty

A good brand is almost as important as the product or service itself. It helps make consumer decisions easier. It's a marker for trust, for reliability. It separates one company from the next. The relation of a good brand to sales is evident, and companies must make managing their brand a top management function.

True brand loyalty is what every company strives for, or at least it should be. An increase in brand loyalty not only boosts reputation, but it directly affects sales. Brand loyalty is different than having a popular brand. A popular brand can lead to increased sales, but it may not last forever. Brand loyalty means developing a strong customer base dedicated to your brand. Committed customers are a huge asset to a company, defending the company if there's a crisis and generally having a more negative view of its competitors, incidentally engaging in word of mouth marketing.

Brand management has often been viewed as a marketing function more than a public relations function. The three brands I have recently studied, however, took a personal approach, building relationships with their customers. Building relationships? That sure sounds like PR to me. The truth is that every department and every employee helps build the brand. Perhaps the most important employee to help build the brand is the CEO, but we'll discuss that in a later post as we look at a company with a brand not unfamiliar to anyone living in this century; Apple. The next three posts will take a closer look at three organizations, Avon, Starbucks and Apple, to see how they were successful in achieving brand loyalty.

True brand loyalty is an asset to every company, and a vital PR function, so it's important to looks at companies who have done it well. That's my PR thought for the day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Applying Freakonomics to PR

I just finished reading Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and my head’s now jam packed with some fun facts. Apparently, Americans spend $1 billion per year on chewing gum, which is the same as is spent in a typical election period, including campaigns for the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Also, you have a greater chance of being killed while dealing crack in Chicago, than if you’re sitting on death row in Texas. Like I said, fun facts – not that I need to know them, but still interested regardless. Beyond the fun facts, the book was great in other ways. I learned that the world is a bit more corrupt than I had imagined, and the idea that incentives make the world go ‘round is forever engrained in me. How can this be applied to PR? I’ll tell you.

Using incentives isn’t rocket science. People like to get things and if it’s free – that’s even better. How can your company be using incentives more effectively? Let’s talk Foursquare, one of the newer social media platforms that’s still getting its feet wet in terms of getting value out of it for business. Some businesses are doing it right though. These are the coffee shops that will give you a free cup of Joe after so many check-ins, or the bar who gives a free drink to the mayor of the venue. These places are taking advantage of incentives and of social media.

Incentives can work internally as well. Sales departments creating contests for employees with a bonus for the winner. Or just general sales goals that aren’t contests. Offer a gas card to someone who’s been working really hard on a particular account. These are all simple things that can go a long way.

Another applicable point for PR in Freakonomics is the use of expertise and information hoarding. Considering all the power that experts are given, the best thing to do is to be really good at something. Be an expert. Become the go-to person about a specific topic in the office, and people will begin trusting you more and more as you build a reputation and credibility. For public relations, it’s important that you try to establish your company or client as experts in their field. This way, people trust them. Journalists need experts just as experts need journalists. If you’re an expert and a journalist needs a quote about your field of expertise, you can earn more media exposure.

Lastly, the book offers advice on questioning the conventional wisdom, which can go far in a professional setting. Just because a company has always done things a certain way, does not mean that this is the best way to be doing it. In questioning the conventional wisdom, a manager may find a much more efficient way to inspire employees or way of getting work done faster. Change is good. Wisdom is great. But conventional wisdom can lead to mediocrity. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Change things up and it might improve business.

Freakonomics is a great book, applicable to all businesses and just generally interesting to read. If you’re looking to gain new perspective on the way the world works, read this book. That’s my PR thought for the day.