Revving For A Cause

Publish Date: 
Feb 1, 2008
By Genevieve Schmitt

MORE COMPANIES THESE DAYS are advertising that a portion of their proceeds goes to benefit a charitable organization of some kind. Breast cancer research is a big one. That pink ribbon seems to be on everything from Campbell's Soup cans to Kitchen Aid mixers.

Cause-related marketing, as defined by the Foundation Center, is the public association of a for-profit company with a nonprofit organization intended to promote the company's product or service and to raise money for the nonprofit. The concept is not new to motorcycling. We see it all the time with biker events where part of the proceeds benefits a group like the Muscular Dystrophy Association or, say, some breast cancer charity. Harley-Davidson has had a long association with the MDA, and certain women's motorcycling events like the 16-year-old Mid-Atlantic Women's Motorcycle Rally align themselves with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Partnering with a charity goes way beyond the thinking that "it's good for our image," or "it's part of our duty as a community-minded dealership." A partnership can actually attract more women to your store or event because many women like to feel they're doing some good in their community or contributing to the betterment of the world. When a woman signs up for an event where some of the money she's donated goes to support a good cause, she feels like she's doing something worthwhile with her time and money. For a woman, so much of her life is all about making the most of her precious time and money.

Let me give you an example: I'm not fond of riding in large groups. I don't do poker runs or motorcycle parades. However, I will participate in a local charity ride knowing my entry fee is being donated to a cause I feel passionate about. One of those causes is domestic violence. Many communities have nonprofit shelters and services for victims of domestic violence. If there is a ride allowing me to support a service like this, you can bet I'll be there. My point is not just to show you an example of a worthwhile charity but to show you how cause-related marketing works to attract someone like me to an event that I normally wouldn't attend.

 

LOCAL NONPROFITS

 

If you are organizing women-only events at your dealership to bring in new female customers, think about putting together one that works with a local charity. Even the mixed-gender events you hold can benefit from hooking up with a charity. For example, you may see more wives tagging along if the event benefits a children's charity of some kind. Contact your local chamber of commerce to get a list of the charitable groups in your community. You may be surprised to learn of some smaller organizations you never knew existed. Be the first to throw an event that will give the organization some exposure while providing your community the opportunity to help them out by participating in your event. Hooking up with the right charity benefits everybody.

If you've never aligned yourself with a charity, you may be surprised to see how the image your customers have of your dealership improves the first time you hook up with a worthwhile cause. It shows customers you care about your community by giving back. It also gives your customers an additional opportunity to patronize your dealership or event. Not only are they participating in your ride, they're helping out a cause near and dear to them.

All things being equal, why not differentiate your dealership from the competition by being a do-gooder? Most definitely your female customers will take notice — because women notice these kinds of things.

 

CHANGING PERCEPTION

 

Let me give you another example. I drive a Ford Explorer. When the vehicle was just a year old, things started breaking. That old adage about the quality of American-made vehicles was proving true, and Ford started losing its luster in my eyes.

In the last year, though, I've taken notice of Ford's association with breast cancer research. The company's "Warriors in Pink" print ads caught my attention because they were created so tastefully. I wanted to buy a T-shirt with the Warriors in Pink design on it, and was impressed to learn Ford is supporting the Susan G. Komen Foundation. While it doesn't make my Explorer run any better, Ford's commitment to the cause made me rethink the automaker's commitment to reaching its customers and, therefore, its attention to quality.

Will I buy another Ford knowing some of the proceeds go to fight breast cancer? That's still to be determined, but at the very least, the fading luster of Ford is gaining some shine back for me, and that's a start.

Genevieve Schmitt is the founder of Women Riders Now, a marketing and communications company. Contact her at gschmitt@womenridersnow.com or via editors@dealernews.com.