Good Humor's good deeds

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Every spring, Good Humor-Breyers unveils a slew of ice cream novelties to spark kids' interest. This year, the Unilever Bestfoods unit hopes to build greater-than-usual excitement among parents and retailers for its Popsicle brand with something more altruistic than the typical kids' promo-a tie-in to the conservation group World Wildlife Fund. Early signs suggest it will be a good match.

A long-held marketing belief is that cause-related programs enhance a company's reputation and, with its new WWF promotion and panda-shaped Wildlife Ice Cream Bars, Good Humor joins a wide variety of marketers increasingly embracing cause-marketing as a way to build sales.

In an executive study of 211 companies by Cone Cause Branding Practice, 69% of respondents said they planned to increase their commitment to social issues. Boston-based Cone found enhancing reputation, developing relationships with local communities and developing deeper consumer trust and relationships were the top reasons to support cause-marketing efforts, said Anne Chan, account executive.

In fact, although Good Humor's large-scale promotional program won't hit stores until April, the ice cream marketer has already reaped the benefits of its WWF tie-in during its sell-in at retail.

"The product itself-vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream bars in panda shapes with chocolate eyes-doesn't look much different than other things the company's had in the past, so I was a little skeptical," said an executive close to the company. "But the efforts in support of wildlife programs across the world have been a huge selling point in presentations to retailers."

One West Coast retailer explained the product's quick acceptance by saying simply, "We need to support any manufacturer donating proceeds to a nonprofit."

Nonprofit tie-ins sometimes fumble. Starwood Hotels' Westin chain miffed many a customer with its Check-Out for Children program, which automatically tacked a $1 donation to UNICEF onto guests' bills. Due to complaints, the chain phased out the program in U.S. locations, though it continues in Europe and Asia.

But nonprofit promos have worked for everyone from the Dixie Chicks (whose summer tour and album sales spark donations to WWF) to Kraft Foods' Balance Bar (a sponsor of American Forest's Global ReLeaf on behalf of its Outdoor bar).

Plush-bear and collectibles marketer The Boyds Collection, meanwhile, last year found retailers similarly jumped at its not-for-profit program for the Starlight Children's Foundation. The collectibles marketer gave 100% of profits from the sale of a special figurine it created to charity. In eight weeks, Boyds sold 36,000 of the Charity Angelhug and Everychild figurines to retailers. Following last year's effort, which raised $230,000 for Starlight, Boyds will this year introduce a plush bear, Vanessa R. Angel.

Good Humor is planning extensive support for its Popsicle promo. Starting in May, a nine-week run of TV advertising will appear on kids' networks such as Nickelodeon, touting Good Humor's more than $100,000 donation to the WWF and entreating kids to help save endangered animals. Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Chicago, handles.

Newspaper inserts beginning May 20 will feature the three endangered species pointing to kids with the headline, "We need you," a line that will be repeated on point-of-sale materials secure. Popsicle packaging will feature the familiar panda-shaped logo of WWF, fun facts about each of the three animals and an offer for free animal-themed items, including trading cards and watches in exchange for proofs of purchase.

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