This Holiday, Military Causes Stand Out

Soldiers.

Whole Foods Market says it is offering free shipping on its holiday gift boxes to soldiers deployed overseas. Sears -- already a big military supporter through its Heroes at Home program -- recently launched a "Baking for the Troops" program to send cookies to military personnel. And longtime supporters -- like Pitney Bowes, with the Holiday Mail for Heroes it sponsors through the American Red Cross -- are ratcheting up their efforts.

To a degree, soldier-supporting causes have become holiday perennials, along with food drives and red-kettle giving. But some experts think we may be seeing a little spike in cause efforts focused on service members and their families. "In these tough economic times, the number and diversity of holiday giving campaigns at retail continues to expand, as does competition for prime store real estate," David Hessekiel, president of Cause Marketing Forum, tells Marketing Daily.

"The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for so long that supporting the troops -- and groups that support the troops -- has matured from being a "crisis reaction" cause. I expect this and other patriotic causes to grow even more next year -- the 10th anniversary of September 11."

"We always seem to see a surge of efforts supporting the military this time of year," Sarah Kerkian, insights supervisor at Cone Inc., a Boston-based cause-marketing firm, says, adding that 85% of Americans think it is important for companies to financially support nonprofit organizations that serve military veterans. "There are usually numerous corporate promotions beginning with Veterans Day in November and then the patriotism carries right through the holidays. Many seem to be short-term promotions, but some companies, such as Walmart, are actually making longer-term commitments to veterans."

But the bigger trend, she says, is toward anything traditional. "Companies and nonprofits return to their annual campaigns, and consumers find comfort in supporting recognizable efforts year-in and year-out, which explains why Salvation Army Red Kettle and the U.S. Marine's Toys for Tots program are by far the leading holiday campaigns Americans plan to support this year," she says. "It's probably not the time of year for super trendy campaigns."

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