Cause for celebration

You may not have heard of StowMate.
The small Tampa-based marine business, which makes boat storage organizers, is only four years old and has four employees.
But that may soon change. The company embraced cause marketing this year in conjunction with a new product launch, and it expects the exposure it will receive to help drive its growth in the years to come.
StowMate’s executives know that branding is all about the perceptions you create amongst your customers. By aligning themselves with a cause people are passionate about, they’re more likely to create loyal consumers to spread the word about their products.
This isn’t just a nice thought. Recent research shows that consumers are much more likely to consider doing business with, working for, recommending the products of and investing in companies that support social issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans say companies have a responsibility to help support causes, and 92 percent acknowledge they have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about, according to The 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey. The study also suggested that 87 percent of Americans are likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause – an increase of more than 31 percent since 1993.
In StowMate’s case, the cause is saving the environment, an issue that dovetails nicely with its new Trash-Tote XL, which allows boaters to stash their trash in a marine-grade mesh bag that attaches to their boat and is reusable. Stow-Mate is launching this new product, which hit shelves late this summer, in conjunction with the Ad Council’s campaign and has pledged to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to environmental initiatives.
“The Ad-Council’s decision to utilize Disney characters to communicate their message brought an element of fun, and we felt consumers would recognize the Little Mermaid instantly,” explained Melinda M. McKay, StowMate director of business development. “The timing for their media launch was in line with our Trash-Tote launch, and the missions were identical.”
Another company that has cause marketing down cold is West Marine. In fact, its support of boating-related causes is part of its mission statement: “We will actively promote boating, work to reduce our impact on the environment, improve and protect marine habitats, and continue to contribute to social needs in the communities in which we do business.”
A recent example was the pledge made by its San Diego super store this summer to donate five percent of its Sept. 1 sales to the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge, an annual fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego.
But this is far from all the company does to support its mission. West Marine has established a full-time grant program, a donations and sponsorships department and has contributed more than $1 million in the past six years to help fund related events, activities and organizations.
While both of these companies are benefiting from consumers’ awareness of and support of these initiatives, they also both believe that the most important outcome is not the exposure they receive, but rather the impact they can have through it.
“While it would certainly be nice to realize significant revenue from the TrashTote, our main goal is to promote good boating practices and empower boaters to take part in protecting their environment,” says McKay. “The program will continue for years, I expect, so as our next generation of boaters graduate to being boat owners themselves, they will already have a strong sense of responsibility. Not having a specific place on their boat to stash the trash will be an exception, rather than the rule as it is now. The return on our investment is about being part of something that effects generations to come; having clean water for our children’s children to enjoy.” For more information on cause marketing, visit — Liz Walz

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