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A Caribbean Company's Cause Campaign - 12 Years On

Massy Stores, Saint Lucia

Massy Stores St.Lucia (formerly Consolidated Foods Ltd) provides a good example of a successful cause marketing campaign in the Caribbean. 

The Pink Ribbon 

By the time, the pink ribbon came on the scene as a symbol for breast cancer awareness in the United States in 1992, breast cancer activists had already done quite a lot of work to raise awareness of the disease, de-stigmatize breast cancer, fund research and institutionalize support. The breast cancer movement had made a real impact. October became a month filled with shops selling their pink-ribboned products, breast- cancer-themed events and fundraisers. 

It was a good and moral cause and companies capitalized on the pink ribbon’s public appeal. Corporations believed that associating with such a cause could enhance their public image and, their bottom-line. General Mills, an American Fortune 500 company was one. 

Save Lids To Save Lives - Yoplait Yoghurt Lid - for Breast Cancer Month

The Start 

In the early 1990s, General Mills, the manufacturer of the United States’ leading yoghurt brand, Yoplait, was searching for a new promotional identity. It had tried various campaigns with figure skating, women’s hockey and the science fiction film, Jurassic Park targeting women ages 18 – 43 but with little success. 

Then, in 1998, the management of Yoplait’s California production plant approved a request from its employees to sponsor a local breast cancer race. This was the beginning of what was to become one of the world’s best-known cause promotion programmes. 

Time and testing proved that supporting the fight against breast cancer appealed to Yoplait’s target consumers and retail partners worldwide including the Caribbean. 

General Mills, thinking that they had hit upon an ‘ownable connection’ with its consumers and partners decided to explore the breast cancer cause further. After a brief partnership with a breast cancer group, General Mills teamed up the Dallas-based group called Susan G. Komen for the Cure – the world’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists – to create Save the Lids to Save Lives Campaign. This cause-related campaign, launched in 1998, became the centrepiece of General Mills’ efforts. 

At the time of the launch, Yoplait yoghurt was the number one yoghurt in the United States accounting for $1.1 billion of General Mills’ $11.2 billion in sales. 

Save the Lids to Save Lives Campaign 

Every September and October, General Mills sold Yoplait yoghurt topped with pink lids. The company donated ten cents for every lid that consumers returned, up to a predetermined cap with a guaranteed minimum. For the business, the positive impact was clear. The sales for Yoplait increased significantly during September and October. Tens of millions were spent every year worldwide. 

In 2008, General Mills reached the cap of $1.5 million in the United States. In that same year, General Mills reported a 14 per cent sales increase for the Yoplait division. Over thirteen years, Yoplait donated more than US$30 million in financial support to Komen through all donation programs. For Komen, the Race for Cure series grew each year with 1.6 million people participating in 2010. 

CFL/Yoplait Walk for Cancer 

Consolidated Foods Ltd (CFL), the local distributor for Yoplait yoghurt in St.Lucia, actively supported community groups and activities around health and crime prevention. Andre Chastanet, the then Managing Director, believed that ‘you had to touch the community to be part of it’ and ‘a company exists in a community, so a healthy community means a healthy business.’ 

So, when General Mills approached CFL to participate in the Save Lids to Save Lives Campaign in 2008, it was not a hard sell. It was a natural fit for the organisation that predominantly employed women and whose customers were mainly women, many of whom had been touched by breast cancer either themselves, through a colleague, a family member, or a friend. 

CFL took the campaign and adapted it to fit within the local context. Its objective was to de-stigmatize breast cancer by increasing public awareness and, to raise funds for women living with cancer in Saint Lucia. CFL partnered with Reach to Recovery, a cancer support group headed by Mrs Marianne Bergasse, and The St.Lucia Cancer Society, the official cancer organisation in St.Lucia. Together with these organisations, CFL launched the CFL/Yoplait Walk for Cancer Campaign in 2008. 

The cancer campaign included the Save Lids to Save Lives Campaign where ten cents from the sale of every pink-lidded yoghurt was placed in a fund along with the registration fees received for the CFL/Yoplait Walk for Cancer. CFL sponsored the walk organised by Reach to Recovery and, donated the funds to the St.Lucia Cancer Society in mid-November. In the first year, CFL was able to raise a total of EC$16,445. 

In St.Lucia, October became known as Cancer month in addition to Jounen Kweyol month. Jounen Kweyol celebrates St.Lucia’s cultural heritage, culminating with festivals and fairs on the last Friday and last Sunday of October. 

The Cancer Campaign Evolved 

CFL brought their sponsorship to life as more people and organisations became committed to the cause and raised funds themselves. Additional partner organisations included the National Community Foundation and Faces of Cancer (a breast cancer survivor group). 

The campaign expanded from CFL receiving donations in cash and in-kind (prizes for the walk etc) to include activities such as an auction evening, health education and talks for CFL employees and other organisations. 

There were Pink Fridays during the month of October when people were asked to wear pink. Customers bought T-shirts for themselves, friends, and family. Companies also purchased T-shirts for their staff. CFL contributed to the cost of the T-shirts and the proceeds were added to the cancer fund. 

The media was incredibly supportive of the initiative. For example, the WAVE radio station gave CFL a weekly time slot for interviews with medical practitioners and others. This also provided an opportunity for people to call in and share their stories. 

An interesting activity was added to the cancer walk – Men in Heels. At the end of the walk, men would wear heels and participate in an obstacle course race. They wanted to make people aware that men get breast cancer too! 

The End of the Yoplait Campaign 

General Mills’ Save Lids to Save Lives campaign ended internationally, three years before it did in the Caribbean in 2018. 

The termination of the General Mills campaign also marked the end of the CFL/Yoplait Cancer Walk with the last Cancer Walk and Auction Evening being held in 2017. CFL could not afford to finance the walk without General Mills’ contribution. 

The CFL/Yoplait Cancer Walk campaign was the biggest single fundraiser for breast cancer on the island raising over EC$400,000 for the cause over ten years. General Mills continues to support breast cancer campaigns on a smaller scale in the region. For example, the Walk for Cure organised by CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank. 

A Redesigned Cancer Campaign 

The end of the Save Lids to Save Lives campaign coincided with the acquisition of CFL by Massy Stores in 2018. Headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago, Massy Stores operates businesses in Barbados, Guyana, St.Vincent and the Grenadines and St.Kitts and Nevis and St.Lucia. In an effort to continue supporting the breast cancer movement, Massy Stores redesigned the campaign, calling it The Massy Stores Breast Cancer Campaign. 

This campaign focused on raising funds from the sale of signature breast cancer pink items including T-shirts, tote bags, pens and other pink-branded items. They also introduced cash register donations at all its stores island-wide. A customer, when cashing out, could make a donation in denominations of $5, $10, $15 and $20 up to a maximum of $200. Massy Stores St.Lucia matches the funds raised up to $6,000. The cash register donations are given to Faces of Cancer. 

Now a Regional Campaign

In 2020, Massy Stores decided to take the campaign to the regional level. It combined its fight to protect the environment with supporting breast cancer nonprofit partners. In 2019, Massy had introduced green reusable shopping bags for its Protect the Environment campaign. As part of the breast cancer campaign, Massy Stores replaced those bags with limited edition pink ones and sold them from October 1 to November 13, 2020. 

During the six-week period, customers were encouraged to purchase the pink reusable shopping bags and give cash register donations. Each country conducted its campaign deciding on the percentage of their contribution from sales of the bags to their local cancer fund and the local nonprofit organisation(s) they would support. 

For example, Massy Stores St.Lucia contributed EC$1.00 from the sale of $5.75 bag while in Barbados, it was BD$1.50 from the sale of a $2.95 bag and TT$4.00 from the sale of a $10.00 bag in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Massy Stores Trinidad and Tobago donated TT$140,576 to the Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society surpassing its target of TT$50,000. Massy Stores St.Lucia raised $26,800.47 for Faces of Cancer. 

The campaign provided an opportunity to connect with a nonprofit partner who shared their company’s values and support a cause.

For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.

ApaNa Magazine Issue 4 – One Caribbean, One Sea

Issue 4 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including Nature Fun Ranch in Barbados, Ocean Heroes Network in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance in the Caribbean region. 

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