By Linda Scott, Catherine Dolan and Mary Johnstone-LouisBy appealing to the sympathies of young mothers toward the risk of childbirth in poor nations, Procter & Gamble’s largest brand, Pampers, and its global partner, UNICEF, will soon defeat a disease that now kills a baby or its mother every nine minutes.
Since 2008, P&G has promised to contribute a portion of the sale of every pack of Pampers during the fourth quarter toward a vaccine against neonatal tetanus. Since the initiative expanded from a small pilot program in Western Europe, consumer enthusiasm has been so strong that the partners now expect the disease will be eliminated, as measured by World Health organisation standards, by 2015. Pampers is now one of UNICEF’s largest corporate donors, yet the campaign has delivered year-on-year growth for P&G’s brand even in its toughest markets.
The result is a new model for cause-related marketing, an innovative way to strengthen mature brands, and a path-breaking avenue to raise money for the big issues. A new business school case, developed by our team at Oxford’s Said Business School and funded as independent work by the Pears Foundation, details both the points that made this campaign work and the challenges that faced the partnership.
Four key factors created this success.
The promotion builds on the sympathies between a broad-based consumer audience and a cohort of recipients who share a powerful similarity of experience.
Every day, 35 million babies are diapered by Pampers. The genius of this campaign is the way it harnesses that commonplace behaviour into a huge fund-raising machine. Childbirth, with all its attendant risks and fears, is an experience shared by Pampers users and vaccine recipients. Though death through tetanus contracted at childbirth is virtually unknown in the developed nations, all mothers understand the anxiety about things that can go wrong in delivery–and so feel sympathy for the rights of all to safe birth. In contrast to other campaigns like Product (Red), the Pampers/UNICEF effort builds on similarity, rather than difference, between donor and recipient–and it relies on the sale of a mass-market staple, rather than on a luxury purchased by only a few. The small contribution per unit–currently set at 12 cents per package–spread across the enormous base, results in a significant donation.
The aligned content between the two brands makes a distinctive competitive message that connects cause, consumer, and choice.
In a mature category like disposable diapers, product innovation is expensive and often quickly replicated by competitors. Staying ahead in markets like Western Europe means creating points of difference that transcend product design and are difficult to imitate. Both Pampers and UNICEF are dedicated to the well-being of children, so their brands were aligned in terms of core essence. In a category where purchase decisions are often made at the shelf, the campaign credibly made a connection between the cause, the consumer, and the product, forging a lasting difference in brand perceptions. As a result, the objective of “doing well by doing good” was accomplished without sacrificing sales growth or shareholder returns. Instead, increased sales from an improved competitive position covered the cost of the vaccine. The campaign can be positively evaluated for returns in comparison to other available tactics.
A strong not-for-profit name benefitted both the private and public good.
Research conducted during the campaign indicates that UNICEF has a reputation as strong as any name atop the lists of global brands. Yet UNICEF’s name brings many positive associations–like social responsibility–that are seldom linked with private sector brands. Research showed that such pro-social qualities were increasingly demanded by consumers in developing, as well as developed, nations.
The promise was simple, the messaging clear, and the outcome accountable.
The one pack = one vaccine was deemed more credible in the initial consumer testing than unrestricted donations. Mothers were sceptical of big, unfocused promises, but were keenly interested in something concrete and seemingly feasible, where the money to be donated and the serum to be purchased could be transparently calculated. Cause-related marketing can suffer from credibility problems in the eyes of consumers, but this partnership, making this simple promise, was believable.
The lines between public and private–and between business and philanthropy–are getting blurrier, yet the examples of true “win-win” efforts are still very few. P&G and UNICEF have built a model that could tackle many difficult issues facing mothers around the world. With luck, other organisations will use this success as a template for further innovation.
Linda M. Scott is the DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford’s Said School of Business, where Catherine Dolan is a University Lecturer in Marketing, Culture, and Society, and Mary Johnstone-Louis is a doctoral student.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.