Wendy’s is putting adoption front and center in a new cause marketing campaign that launched March 24th. Adoption isn’t new for the fast food chain. Dave Thomas, Wendy’s founder, was himself adopted. He started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992. But this new campaign elevates adoption in Wendy’s brand, marketing and stores. The promotion also offers some invaluable insights on five truths about cause marketing.
CAUSE MARKETING TRUTH #1: BE AUTHENTIC
Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas didn’t start the foundation to sell more burgers. Thomas was adopted at six weeks, so he knew firsthand the value of a child having a loving family. During the first years of the foundation, fundraising in Wendy’s restaurants was low-key. While it’s nice to support a cause that customers also care about, the cause has to first resonate with the company. That’s why I advise business owners to start with a cause they care about. It can be anything: water conversation, save the pandas or sheltering the homeless. When companies care, customers will follow. Watch this emotional appeal and you will feel the love:
CAUSE MARKETING TRUTH #2: INCENTIVIZE CUSTOMERS
Giving small incentives or rewards to donors is a great way for businesses to maximize giving. In its new campaign, Wendy’s diners can buy a Frosty key tag for $1, with all proceeds going to the foundation. The tag entitles them to a free junior-sized Frosty when they buy something else. As part of its annual support for No Kid Hungry, America’s roadside burger stand Shake Shack has offered diners a free five dollar shake in exchange for a two dollar donation. Last year, Shake Shack raised a whopping $285K at nine locations and gave away over 100,000 shakes. An incentive can be just about anything. A discounted or free product or service, money-saving coupons, or even an additional donation to the cause.
CAUSE MARKETING TRUTH #3: CAUSE ISN’T A SIDE ORDER
For many years, Wendy’s fundraising strategy was passive. The chain relied on coin canisters for donations. Even Wendy’s website had no mention of the foundation’s work. That all changed on March 24th. And it’s not just about raising money. The company recognized it could do more to boost adoption awareness. “You walk into a restaurant today and there’s a canister there and you can put in some spare change, and millions of dollars have been raised that way,” said Craig Bahner, Wendy’s chief marketing officer to the New York Times. “But we haven’t done it in a holistic way that could really drive awareness, and that really educates consumers about why it’s important and why it matters to us.” In addition to the Frosty key tags, Wendy’s has given the foundation a prominent spot on its website with a new “adoption hub” where visitors can learn more about adoption and the Foundation’s work. Wendy’s is also devoting advertising dollars to the campaign.
CAUSE MARKETING TRUTH #4: PUT CUSTOMERS’ MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
The real money in companies is not in the corporate checkbook. Companies, on average, donate less than one percent of their pre-tax profits to causes. The money is in individuals, which companies can help you access. That’s just what Wendy’s has in mind with its Frosty key tag which will sell for $1. If you’re happy because a company just cut you a check for a few thousand bucks, you can wipe that smile off your face. You just left a ton of money on the table and took the pocket change instead.
CAUSE MARKETING TRUTH #5: BE REALISTIC
Supporting a cause is just one way to motivate consumers to do business with you. Price, product, customer service and hundreds of other things impact buying decisions. But cause is the wind that fills your sails when you need it most. “It’s very important that people know that there’s more to you than just selling cheeseburgers to make a buck,” said Bahner. “We’re not setting out to grow our sales by 5 percent by doing this, but this is a great cause, and people will think more favorably of our brand, so maybe we’ll win a tiebreaker.” Wendy’s isn’t new to supporting a cause. But it took them 22 years to launch a campaign focused on adoption that is comprehensive, integrated and reflects the passion the brand has for the cause. Companies and nonprofits that want to compete can’t afford to wait as long to adopt Wendy’s lessons.