Retail icon JC Penney is at a crossroads. Declining sales, upheaval in pricing and promotion strategies, and turnover at the top of the organization.create an uncertain future for the company. In an effort to define the JCP brand and become relevant again with consumers, the company has announced a cause support program called JCP Cares. Shoppers will have the option to round up their purchases to the next dollar, with the change going to a cause designated by the company. A unique feature of JCP Cares is that a different cause will be supported each month.
A “flavor of the month” strategy might work for selling ice cream, but it is not the approach a business should take for engaging in strategic philanthropy. Cause marketing is far more than a platform for raising donations; it should be used to articulate a brand’s values and meaning. Selecting causes should focus on one or a select few causes that resonate with a brand’s target market. One to three initiatives (general issues or causes) should be identified as priorities. Then, the marketing and human resources a firm possesses can be used for good to provide support.
JC Penney’s intentions are admirable. Among the causes it plans to support through JCP Cares are USO, Boys &Girls Clubs, and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The causes JCP Cares have selected are not the issue; the number of causes supported spreads the resources of JC Penney too thinly. Also, it will be difficult for the brand to be associated with the various causes because of the short-term nature of the cause promotions. Also, with such a large number of causes supported, consumers could be confused about which causes JC Penney supports.
Cause marketing should not be viewed as a sales promotion that can create short-term sales gains. Instead, cause marketing is a means for a company to involve its customers in supporting a nonprofit or charity whose mission and values represent priorities for all involved. JC Penney – figure out what is important to your customers, then marshal your resources to create spectacular cause marketing programs. Your customers will admire you, and the “cause of the month” can be replaced by an ongoing commitment to strategic philanthropy.