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A game changer for retailer community efforts

Retailers have been involved in community programs since the beginning of time, or at least since the first merchant opened its doors.

These often follow a similar pattern. A retailer works with one or more community partners to help support local efforts. Activities typically involve in-store programs, education, donations, local volunteer efforts, and the like.

All this supports the community, results in a positive halo for the retailer, and draws the company closer to its customer base.

Retailers in the food and drug industries tend to be especially good at these efforts.

However, there’s a built-in challenge. Community efforts often have limited scale. They don’t usually involve a widespread number of local and national partners, especially retail competitors. This makes it hard to build a 360-degree community initiative with game-changing impacts.

Enter the Consumer Goods Forum and its groundbreaking “One for Good” health campaign, launched in the middle of last year in Hagerstown, Maryland. This is an initiative chock full of best practices for all kinds of retail community efforts, whether for wellness or other topics. And so far it has progressed without too much national exposure, as partners take the time to experiment with best approaches on a local level.

CGF, a global organization of retailers, manufacturers and service providers, has partnered with Healthy Washington County, a public and private collaboration of community partners in the Hagerstown area. Those participants range from Meritus Health to the local Chamber of Commerce.

Providing even more fuel is a considerable number of manufacturer partners, including PepsiCo, Campbell Soup, Danone and Johnson & Johnson.

And here’s the most interesting part: the effort even brings together competing local retailers as partners, including Martin’s (Ahold Delhaize), Walmart, and Walgreens Boots Alliance. That kind of collaboration ensures the impact will extend to multiple consumer segments of the community.

The One for Good name alludes to how small steps – whether from consumers or partner collaborators – can make huge differences over time in consumer health outcomes.

How does this all play out in practice? Here are some of the initiatives pursued:

  • Targeting Needs: A big focus of the Hagerstown campaign is on diabetes and childhood obesity, based on that community’s health challenges.

  • Care Packs: One for Good ‘CarePacks’ are distributed in stores. These contain information about making healthier choices for food and fitness, along with providing healthy product samples, recipes, and coupons.

  • Events: A wide range of events are promoted by individual retailers, which may include, for example, health screenings, immunizations, diabetes awareness days, and health classes.

  • In-store presentations: Retailers mount in-store displays for the campaign, for instance showcasing food and nonfood solutions for specific health conditions.

  • Associate training: CGF supports retailer efforts to help store employees understand the One For Good campaign and its purpose. This enables associates to act as in-store ambassadors to support customer wellness needs.

I spoke to Sharon Bligh, director, Health and Wellness, CGF, who explained why it’s essential to involve so many players — including retail competitors — in this campaign.

“No retailer, manufacturer or community can do something like this alone,” she said. “The learnings are faster when you do it together.”

The One for Good program pursues a metrics-based approach that looks at two major KPIs: raising awareness of health and wellness and supporting healthier baskets. The campaign just received a boost from a positive assessment of early results by partner Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

What’s next? CGF hopes to add initiatives in more U.S. communities over time, which would be tailored to local needs, and to introduce components for online shopping as well. Also, given its global reach, CGF is pursuing a range of consumer health initiatives in numerous countries, and expects to share lessons between countries and CGF members.

All this makes sense, and there’s no reason One for Good-type strategies can’t be used for other industry community efforts that go beyond health. CGF’s approaches are solid and transferable. It’s about collaborating at the local and national levels for maximum scale, measuring results, and adjusting based on feedback. It’s also about the benefits of involving a maximum number of participants. If that doesn’t represent an ideal approach to community efforts, I’m not sure what does.

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He currently is the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s column, click here.
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