'Cause' A Stir


Thrive Magazine

January 2011


The Story

Hitching your business to a worthy cause can help your company do good—and be more profitable.

Fried chicken in pink buckets. Purple frosted doughnuts. Red iPods®. Whether the cause is supporting breast cancer research, promoting Alzheimer’s awareness or fighting AIDS in Africa, these colorful campaigns are all examples of linking purchases of a product with fundraising for a charity.

New cause-related campaigns are a growing trend and for good reason—they work. Cause marketing, when done well, can increase sales, boost corporate image and attract new customers—even in non-consumer markets, such as agriculture.

As a company committed to both good corporate citizenship and its customers, Syngenta is tapping into cause marketing and making retailer partnerships a key part of its campaigns, a move that allows retailers to strengthen their businesses while supporting their local communities.

Weeding Out Hunger

As an agribusiness that helps feed the world, addressing the availability of food is a cause close to the heart of Syngenta.

In 2010, Syngenta launched the Weeding out Hunger™ with Halex® GT campaign to benefit affiliates of Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks.

David Piñon, the Syngenta communications manager for the campaign, says that while Syngenta constantly strives to find innovative ways to feed the world’s growing population, the need is not going away. Even in the United States,

49 million people—one-in-six, according to the USDA—are currently suffering from hunger, so Syngenta wanted to give back by addressing food insecurity in local communities where its customers and field representatives live and work.

“This has been a very beneficial campaign because, as we think globally, we’re acting locally to address the needs that surround us today,” says Piñon.

Syngenta donated a portion of 2010 Halex® GT corn herbicide sales, and a Weeding out Hunger road show traveled the country, collecting nonperishable food items at trade shows and retail locations. With the help of its retail partners, Syngenta has donated $100,000 and collected more than 5 tons of food.

One of those partners is Centennial Ag Supply in Greeley, Colo. When Jim Fargo, Centennial product manager, heard about the Weeding out Hunger campaign, he encouraged his company to host food drives at its five retail locations, allowing Centennial to collect more than 2,600 pounds of food for local food banks.

“It can’t just be about us all the time,” says Fargo. “[Weeding out Hunger] allowed us to partner with our customers for the common goal of helping others, and my employees really got behind it and started sharing it with their customers. Pretty soon, the thing just snowballed for us.”

Investing in the Future

The latest USDA Census of Agriculture reports that there are twice as many growers over the age of 65 as under the age of 35. With agriculture’s labor force aging rapidly, maintaining young people’s interest in the profession is an important part of the industry’s survival.

Syngenta has sponsored the National FFA Organization for many years, building relationships with students and supporting FFA chapters financially. The partnership promotes leadership, skill development and career options for students—and carries a personal connection for many Syngenta employees, including head of Syngenta Crop Protection, Vern Hawkins.

“As a teenager in rural Indiana, I was very involved with FFA,” says Hawkins. “The opportunities and the confidence I gained helped provide a clear direction in my future. Eventually, those of us in agribusiness today will pass the reins on to the next generation, and I want to do everything I can to make sure young people have the same educational and developmental opportunities that I had.”

In 2009, Syngenta extended its support of FFA to involve retailers through the Blue Jacket Program, a unique initiative in which Syngenta matches retailer donations and allows participating dealerships to earmark a portion of that donation to their local FFA chapter, creating a connection between retailers and their communities.

Syngenta also demonstrates its long-term commitment to the industry through sponsorship of the Future of Southern Ag essay competition. This contest allows eligible students at universities across the Southern United States to share their opinions on issues affecting agriculture and present their ideas for addressing those issues to benefit future generations.

“This contest fosters innovative thought by those who will determine the course of Southern agriculture and who will likely face even greater challenges than we do today,” says Andrew Gascho Landis, a Syngenta scholarship recipient from Auburn University.

Planning Your Campaign

If you want to develop your own cause marketing campaign, consider these helpful tips by experts from a range of industries:

Identify a cause that is close to the purpose of your business.

For example, benefiting organizations that work to fight hunger is an obvious tie to agriculture.

Pick a cause that everyone can get behind.

Avoid political or controversial issues or causes that appear hypocritical.

Structure your campaign in a way that gives your customers power to make a difference.

For example, making donations based on how much of a product or service is sold engages your audience directly.

For additional support, partner with suppliers, like Syngenta, that care about the same things you do.

Get publicity.

Though giving back to the community is a good thing to do, it won’t be good for business unless people know about the great work you’re doing. Get the word out by using fliers, traditional and social media, and word of mouth. Always look for photo opportunities, and invite the local press to any check presentations or celebration events.