Pop-Up Register Programs Support Boston Bombing Victims

Register programs are similar to pinups in one important way and different in two distinctive ways. First, they are similar in that they fall under the umbrella of point-of-sale (POS). For me, POS cause marketing is anything that happens at a business' register that raises money for a nonprofit. In addition to register and pinup programs, I would put round-up programs and donations boxes under the point-of-sale umbrella.

Register programs differ from pinups in that they are generally passive cause marketing - which means there is no ask from the cashier (e.g. "Would you like to donate a dollar to the One Fund Boston?"). Beyond seeing the signage at the register - or on the credit card terminal when they swipe their card - the customer acts on their own without any prompt from the cashier. Pinups also involve some type of paper icon that shoppers sign and is then displayed in the store.

You'll find a lot of examples of pinups and register programs (and donation boxes) on my point-of-sale board on Pinterest.

Working with a business' point-of-sale system (i.e. In this case the actual register a business uses to process sales), you can quickly set up a register program without going through the work of designing, printing and shipping pinups.

And that's just what we saw in the days and week after the bombing here in Boston. Here are several examples of register programs.

This one is from Dunkin Donuts. There was no ask from the cashier.

I saw this one at Shaw's/Star supermarkets. This company - one of the larger supermarket chains in New England - made a generous donation to the victims and offered to match donations up to $100,000.

photo 3
photo 3

The manager at my local Shaw's, Neil Coutu, kindly let me photograph the instructions for cashiers. While I wasn't asked to support the victims, employees are encouraged to ask customers to give. Also, note how they processed payment with a code. Other businesses will use a barcode or designate a button on the register for the transaction.

I got this ask from CVS Pharmacy after I swiped my credit card. The first time, it only appeared for a second before disappearing. The second time I shopped at CVS I had to make a donation (or choose NO) before proceeding. I've said before that if the cashier isn't asking you to give this credit card ask that requires a response may be the second best thing.

Register programs have always been popular at Whole Foods. I see a different one every month. I've never been asked to give, and this register sign states that shoppers should tell the cashier how they would like to donate.

The big questions with register programs, including this one, is how much will they raise? Will Shaw's even get close to matching $100,000 in donations from shoppers? I suspect not.

We know that compared to active cause marketing - when the cashier asks the customer to donate - there's a large gap in how much is raised. Without a verbal request, most customers won't give.

Still, these register programs will raise some money. They're also useful in that they tell consumers what the company is doing in the aftermath of the tragedy. Shaw's is smart in promoting its donation, and encouraging others to make theirs, which they'll match.

Even if shoppers don't donate they'll leave knowing Shaw's did.

Whole Foods Adopts QR Codes for Cause Marketing

I came across this appeal at my local Whole Foods Market. These types of cause marketing promotions are common at Whole Foods. I call them passive cause marketing because they don't involve an ask from the cashier, unlike active cause marketing.

The signage is strategically placed right where you swipe your credit card.

This is the first time I've seen a QR code at the register at Whole Foods. As I've explained before, QR codes are a good idea. They allow consumers to better connect with the causes they support at the register.

Unfortunately, this QR code is not in a great spot. You see it but you don't have time to act on it! I didn't have time to get my smartphone out and scan the QR code. A better idea would be to include it on the shopper's receipt as well.

Nevertheless, it's good see QR codes expanding their reach. Do you have other examples to share with me?

More Information: Page: 11 - 12, 120 -122, 287 - 288, Cause Marketing for Dummies 

FYI: My wife got the grandinroad/Frontgate catalog and they had a QR code on the back that linked readers to something different, relevant and interesting. Scan it and see for yourself!

YMCA Puts the "Local" in Hyperlocal Cause Marketing

I visited my local Whole Foods last weekend and saw this cause marketing program at the register. I've seen these passive cause marketing programs before at Whole Foods, but this one was different. It benefited the West Suburban YMCA right down the street from the supermarket. It was the first time I had seen a program at Newtonville Whole Foods benefit a nonprofit in my town.

Fortunately, I had a great contact at the Y, La Tanya Arnold, whom I met at a business event a while ago and turned out to be huge Halloween Town fan. She referred me to to Annmarie Cobb, Director of Annual Giving & Community Relations, who gave me the scoop.

This Whole Foods location is the only store raising money for the Newton Y. It isn't part of a national effort by Whole Foods to raise money for Y's, as I first suspected. Shoppers had a choice of $2 or $5 donations.

Annemarie said the Y hoped to raise between $1,000 and $1,500 during the month of May.

The Y is on the right track working with a supermarket. Grocers have the foot traffic needed to raise lots of money with point-of-sale programs. The only thing missing from this program are more locations to raise more money!

There's another Whole Foods in my hometown just a couple of miles down the road, perhaps they could fundraise for the Y as well?

Like everyone I talk to, Annemarie said cause marketing will be a big focus of her work in the months ahead. But also like everyone else, she's not quite not sure who her next partner will be. That's when having Joe Waters live in your town just might be a good thing!

Cause Marketing in the 'Hood: Starbucks, Whole Foods

conservation international starbucks

In my travels this past weekend, I came across two cause marketing programs at two stores my family frequents a lot. The first was at Starbucks where I saw a display for the new Conservation International Starbucks Card. You load the card with dough and every time you spill the beans at Starbucks through the end of the year five cents goes to CI. I like the program, and as a Starbucks customer I admire the coffee behemoth for supporting CI's mission to protect the earth.

One program I missed in Starbucks stores this month, however, was their annual Leprechaun Latte promotion to support Boston-based Jumpstart. This was a simple cause marketing program that rewarded Jumpstart with 25 cents for every green latte sold. I reported in 2006 that the program raised $13,000.

This program was a great example of a giant company doing local cause marketing (Leprechaun Lattes were unique to New England). As a local cause marketer it gave me hope that maybe my little nonprofit could one day work with Starbucks. Now, it looks as if I may need to look for my pot of gold elsewhere.

My second stop this weekend was at Whole Foods, a grocer I've written glowingly on for their passive cause marketing programs. On this trip, however, I was pleasantly accosted by a passionate young cashier named Amanda. She asked me to support the Whole Planet Foundation, a nonprofit started by Whole Foods to help fuel economic development in poor countries, mainly through microfinancing. You could donate a $1 or $5, but if you chose the latter, Whole Foods included a chocolate bar to sweeten the deal!

I really appreciated Amanda's enthusiasm, and she shared how Whole Foods had raised $2 million to help victims from the Haiti earthquake.

Like in the passive cause marketing program I reviewed earlier this year, the signage for this program was right near the credit card machine where everyone could see it. "Empower women through micro-credit" was the call to action for this sophisticated, educated shopper. But, as in every other program I've ever run, the person at the register makes all the difference.

I wish Whole Foods would encourage more of their cashiers to "make the ask."

I wish every store had more cashiers like Amanda!

Active vs. Passive Cause Marketing


As a fan of pinup programs, especially for small nonprofits, I'm frequently asked how important the "ask" is at the register. The ask happens when you're checking out and and cashier says, "Would you like to donate a dollar to help _________?" To understand why the ask is so important to the success of a pinup program, you needn't look any further than the stores you visit everyday.

"Do you need batteries for that?"

"Would you like to try Via, our new instant coffee?"

"Would you like to supersize your meal?"

They ask because when they do you usually say yes and buy more. A lot more.

The same is true of pinups. The more you ask people to give a buck or two the more people will. I call this active cause marketing (ACM).

But ACM isn't for everyone. Some retailers see it as pestering the customer. An example here in eastern Massachusetts, and I limit it to my area because I really don't know what they do in other parts of the country, is Whole Foods. They practice what I call passive cause marketing (PCM). And for all the shortcomings of PCM, Whole Food does it pretty darn well.

They put the gift request in a can't-miss spot near the register where customers can decide for themselves if they want to contribute.

I ran across the Autism Special Education Center pinup program at my local Whole Foods in West Newton, Massachusetts. The pitch was in a great location. Right in my line of sight on the credit card machine where I swiped my card. All I had to do was pick the card for either the $2 or $5 donation and give it to the cashier who scanned it just like any other item.

While this approach won't raise as much money as an active pinup program, it's a hundred times better than most passive cause marketing programs I see. Usually the donation request is far beyond passive; it's hidden behind the gum in aisle three, or worse.

But let's not forget how much the type of customer that shops at Whole Foods contributes to the success of this PCM program. Their average shopper is affluent, educated and sophisticated (so far it hasn't rubbed off on me), which makes them more open and progressive about supporting causes they care about.

While this program was for autism, other PCM programs I've seen at the register are for food pantries, homeless shelters and especially "green" causes. Again, right in line with the interests and concerns of their yuppie shoppers.

I've never had success with passive cause marketing programs, but that's not because they didn't work. I didn't set realistic expectations for myself and was disappointed when they didn't raise as much money as ACMs. Now I know better.

To date, I also haven't worked with retailers with the kind of customers that are more responsive to PCM programs. I'll have to keep looking because Whole Foods in Massachusetts has already said no to doing a PCM for my cause.

Fortunately for me, there are a lot of other places to shop.