Good Neighbors


At a time when both landlord and tenant advertising budgets are shrinking amid darkened spaces and struggling retail sales, marketing for sheer image isn’t garnering much stakeholder support. However, supporting a cause and generating goodwill are.

Chain Store Age talked with several mall owners that have continued to stand by their beliefs, and their tenants, even when times are tough—pumping dollars into programs designed to increase social awareness while upping retail foot traffic and community goodwill.

Shop for the cure: Bayer Properties has a cause, and the cards to back it up. This year the Birmingham, Ala.-based shopping center developer launched “Card for a Cause,” a new gift-card program designed to benefit local chapters of national philanthropies. The first mall to implement the program was The Summit flagship development in Birmingham, with The Summit locations in Louisville, Ky., and Reno, Nev., slated to follow suit early next year.

The first organization to participate was the local chapter of Juvenile Diabetes, followed two weeks later, in early April, by the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. “The program works through branded gift cards with local chapters of these national organizations, and the cards are sold like regular mall gift cards,” explained Annie Damsky, marketing manager for Bayer Properties. It’s an opt-in program, in that the customer is given a choice between buying the branded card or the standard mall variety, but there is no extra fee or reduced value when purchasing the charity card. “We make a straight donation of 5% of the sale value to the organization,” said Damsky.

Although the program’s history is short, it is ongoing—“a program of perpetuity,” said Damsky—and is already representing 30% of gift-card sales values. By implementing a program of this nature, Bayer is not only transcending its role in the community as a place to shop and dine but is conveying goodwill and “giving back to the communities we serve,” she added.

Leveraging literacy: Creating good-will not only within the community as a whole, but specifically with its children, is a companywide initiative for Developers Diversified Realty. Three years ago, the Beachwood, Ohio-based developer introduced an annual program called “Kids with Heart,” which encourages children across the country to take an interest in their communities through various acts of kindness. The company’s most recent foray into kid-sized programming is called “Project Imagination,” unveiled just last month.

“We had so much success with [Kids with Heart] that we wanted to build on it and empower kids in a different way,” said Scott Schroeder, VP of marketing and corporate communications for Developers Diversified. “Our motivation for Project Imagination was about building confidence in kids and encouraging imagination and creativity.”

The inaugural theme, “How your city or state shapes America,” involves a story submission by children aged 10 to 14, and artwork from the younger sets of ages 5 to 9. “We really take pride in our ability to showcase and recognize creative talents in the kids in our communities and provide them with a forum to express opinions and ideas,” said Schroeder.

Local panels of judges, comprised of city officials, educators, librarians, authors and business owners—“people who share a passion for literacy, imagination and creativity,” said Schroeder—will assess the entries and name the winners.

Designed to coincide with National Literacy Month in September, Project Imagination rolled out in 13 enclosed Developers Diversified centers in 2008. And, “We believe we’ll be able to expand on the success of the program in 2009 and roll it out further at our specialty centers,” said Schroeder.

Helping the economy: When dollars are pumped into the local economy, the list of winners is lengthy. Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises developed a marketing campaign around exactly that—helping the economy—and looked good doing it.

“We timed the launch of our four-week direct-mail campaign called ‘Help the Economy and Look Good Doing It’ to coincide with the mailing of the nation’s tax-rebate checks,” said Paulette Caputo, director of marketing for Forest City Commercial Management. “It was the latest addition to our targeted marketing efforts using barcoding technology.”

Forest City first started utilizing barcoding several years ago, and now all direct-mail campaigns incorporate the technology. “We want to spend our dollars wisely,” said Caputo. “Developing such targeted-marketing efforts is more costly than just broadcasting a message, but we’re hitting the shoppers we want.”

‘Help the Economy’ invited preselected shoppers—10,000 of the best customers in Forest City’s combined centers’ databases—to spend up to $100 in one day at the participating shopping centers, and receive up to $20 in a mall gift card. “We had about a 11.5% response rate,” said Caputo, “which is great for direct mail and, anecdotally, the retailers told us that they used the promotion to up-sell to the minimum-purchase requirement.”

Forest City centers are active marketers. Besides regular and seasonal direct-mail campaigns, some supported by additional media, the company hosts large-scale events designed to draw traffic and entertain crowds. The Main Street Live Summer Concert Series, Movies in the Plaza film showings and the annual Symphony in Lights holiday light show are all free to the public. “We are not only giving back to our customers by entertaining them with these events,” said Caputo, “but we are providing opportunities to shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants and avail themselves of all the shopping centers’ offerings.”

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