Some $8 billion a year is returned to American households each year in the form of rebates, estimates Parago, a rebate promotion provider in Lewisville, Texas. That dwarfs the $1.7 billion that IEG predicts companies will spend on cause marketing promotion in 2012.
Surely there’s a way to mash-up these two different approaches to incentive promotions in a way that takes best advantage of both.
One example is Bota Box, which sells California wines in a box. Bota Box customers are asked if they want to apply rebates to benefit the Arbor Day Foundation when they meet its terms. Customers can also keep the rebate for themselves.
Here’s how it works: When you send in the cash register receipts for three Bota boxes and the official mail-in rebate form, the company will make a $12 donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation.
The corresponding rebate amounts for two Bota Boxes is $7 and $3 for one Bota Box.
No word on any total donation limits to the Arbor Day Foundation, although each household is limited to one rebate, whatever the amount. Also, the rebate is available only those 21 years of age or older.
Bota Box has also done “like” cause-marketing campaigns on Facebook for the Arbor Day Foundation and participated in tree-planting efforts. Bota Box debuted this mashup of cause marketing and rebates in 2011.
Pretty cool, right?
Since this kind of promotion requires the explicit permission of regulators in various states, I suspect that Bota Box will deploy it several more times to take advantage of the costs of getting regulatory approvals.
Of all the types of companies likely to offer rebates, the wine and spirits industry is about the last one I would have thought of. But, as the $8 billion figure from Parago demonstrates, customer rebates are very common.
One car company, Subaru, has enjoyed sales growth and lower costs during the Great Recession by redeploying its incentive budget to a cause marketing effort called Share the Love.
Held each December since 2008, the effort involves Subaru donating $250 to one or more of several recognizable causes when you buy or lease a new Subaru during the promotional period.
In the wake of the first successful Share the Love campaign, Tim Mahoney, SVP and chief marketing officer of Subaru, told the 2009 Chicago Auto Show that the campaign actually saved Subaru money.
“We funded this out of our incentive budget,” Mahoney said. “Our incentive costs actually went down in December , year over year. So it was a way of taking the resources we have and spreading them to organizations that could use it. And at the end of the day we raised a lot of money. A lot of money. Which makes me very happy and proud to be associated with it.”
You can imagine many other uses for this mash-up of rebates and cause marketing. Whirlpool could ask people to donate their rebate checks to Habitat for Humanity. Mobile service providers could ask customers to send rebate checks to charities. Cable companies or satellite TV providers could direct rebate money towards favored causes.
Parago, which provides the total market estimate of rebates in the United States, calculates that the average household garners $150 a year in rebates. That’s found money that many consumers might be willing to share with a good cause if the companies offering the rebates made the request at the right time.