Cause Related Marketing: Discovery is credited to Amex

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The Statue of Liberty Restoration Appeal Fund approached a number of New York-based corporations in 1984 to help raise the $5.4 million the renovation programme required. Here was a national monument in a desperate state of repair and it was, the fund-raisers argued, the civic duty of big business to help put that right. A plaque would mark those companies prepared to invest a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars.

As appeals for corporate cash go, the request was quite typical of what was then the norm, except for one thing - the Statue of Liberty was a powerful national symbol to millions of Americans.

When American Express was asked to contribute it declined. But it wasn't turning down the opportunity to give for any of the usual reasons - in fact it had seen some untapped potential and wanted to take advantage of it. Instead of simply sending a cheque, the charge card giant pledged to make a donation every time a new customer applied for a card or even when an existing card holder made a purchase. At the same time Amex launched an ad campaign and distributed promotional material informing customers of the link.

In the three-month trial period, American Express handed over a third of the total funds required. Card usage increased by 17 per cent, and the company registered 27 per cent more new card members than usual. Cause- related mar-keting, it seems, was born.