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1999-05-16
Bentonville, AR. The Best Corporate Citizen

Wal-Mart, the company that spends millions of dollars in TV ads that smile at you -- has never stinted on self-congratulatory press releases. The latest from the Bentonville PR machine is a "company press release" with the headline: "Americans Say Wal-Mart is #1 as 'Good Corporate Citizen'. It turns out that this startling conclusion was produced by Cone Communications, a Boston "strategic marketing" company that develops "cause-related marketing campaigns" for its corporate clients. The survey Wal-Mart is boasting about was taken of 2,000 people, and it claims that "one in four Americans were able to spontaneously name" Wal-Mart as a good corporate citizen, "bumping McDonald's from the top spot it held since 1993". If one in four spontaneously named Wal-Mart as a good corporate citizen, that means 3 out of 4 did not. 75% of those polled did not connect Wal-Mart with being a first-class citizen. Wal-Mart seems to be quite happy with only 25% recognition. "We're particularly proud to have Americans recognize Wal-Mart as a good corporate citizen," said CEO David Glass. "While we are honored to learn there are people who are cognizant of our community involvement, it is even more heartening to know that Americans care that we share their concern for and commitment to the people and issues they face in each of our communities." What would have been the survey results if people had been asked: "What one retail company in America is most often associated with destroying downtowns, ruining small businesses, and degrading the quality of life in hometown, USA?" I'll bet the answer would have been more than 25% Wal-Mart. This "cause-related" marketing is a big deal at most big corporations. Companies like Cone Communications have convinced them that we Americans are fiercely local to companies that are connected to good causes, like Tom's of Maine or Ben & Jerry's. So it's good business to appear to do good in the community. So corporations adopt a few charities and then widely advertise their good works. A perfect example is Home Depot. "Our comprehensive commitment to community development and youth at risk programs is as much a part of our strategy in growing our business as the products we select and carry," says Suzanne Apple of Home Depot. Polls say that Americans want companies to improve local schools, and so that is the most popular cause-related corporate program. Brag about your good deeds, and make more sales. That's the cause-related bottom line. Improving the environment is another big cause, so the big corporations embrace that issue as well. Although 3 out of 4 people surveyed did not spontaneously choose Wal-Mart as a good citizen, the company still wants you to know that they are the #1 good guy. How's that for making statistics spin on their head?

What you can do: For the official list of "good works" accomplished by Wal-Mart, see the company's May 6th. press release. For a copy of the report that says Wal-Mart is #1 with a whopping 25% recognition factor, contact Mike Lawrence at Cone Communications, 617-227-2111. Maybe Cone Communications will do a sprawl-busters survey of who Americans rate as the worst corporate citizen in their area. Stay tuned...










 
 
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