Swiss Chalet’s Wild promotion deal
By Astrid Van Den Broek
For Swiss Chalet, it looks like a solid promotion: linking with the Canadian Wildlife Federation to distribute Swiss Chalet-branded Wild magazine, which
educates readers on animal life, wildlife and environmental conservation.
With the added offer of a $5 discount on one-year subscriptions to the magazine, it would be a chance to tie in a family-friendly educational program. The promotion would also run mid-November to end of December, a high- profile time for the chain during which it runs its annual Festive promotion, bringing in the year’s highest guest count.
The catch? Unlike a “preservation” environmental organization, the CWF is a “conservation” organization, meaning it supports sustainable use of
resources, which includes hunting, a sport that has increasingly come under fire, especially in urban centres.
Money goes to education program
In retrospect, Valerie McIlroy says she could have asked one more question in her due diligence: “Are there any risk issues in the roots (of your
organization)?” As the vice-president marketing for Cara Operations Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont., that query might have helped McIlroy realize there could
be. Still, she doesn’t have an issue with linking up with CWF.
McIlroy knew CWF’s mandate involved fostering awareness and appreciation of nature. She also knew anglers and hunters were at the root of the CWF’s
formation in the 1960s, thanks to the due diligence done by the promotional partners, which included WSP Publishing, a division of WSP Marketing
International Ltd. of Toronto, Wild’s publisher Tribute Publishing Inc., and Swiss’ public relations firm, Strategic Objectives Inc.
With more than 300,000 members, the CWF’s membership ranges from people who are hunters to members of Greenpeace, says Sandy Baumgartner, manager programs and communications for the Ottawa-based organization “But we don’t actively promote hunting and it’s not part of our mandate,” she says. Baumgartner does note that with its roots and its current affiliations with hunting and fishing organizations, there is an assumption they’re an
extension of those organizations.
In the end, McIlroy says the promotion will run as planned and she’s confident the money from the subscriptions to Wild is justified since it is going towards school board-endorsed programs on nature activities. She also notes that in the first week of the promotion, a million transactions have taken place and she’s heard no complaint directly.
Alan Middleton, marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University, warns companies to dig as deep as possible when
creating partnerships, and even deeper if a company is teaming with a socially conscious organization. “Any particular issue you’re going to cover, there’s always five or six different viewpoints,” says Middleton. “You’ve got to arm yourself with a bunch of potential questions. And (if you find potential controversy) the answer may not be ‘Don’t go ahead if you find awkward stuff.’ It’s gear up for it.”
Ken Wong, professor of marketing and business strategy, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., agrees extra due diligence is needed in cases like these.
“It’s not just homework in looking for potential areas of controversy,” he says. “One has to be careful the personality of a partner matches the product’s personality.”
In the end, Doug Fisher, a Toronto-based foodservice consultant and author of Successful Restaurant Strategies, believes the promotion may have only
some backlash with consumers. “I think it’s probably a good promotion and will create good visibility. And there’ll be a handful of consumers (concerned about this),” he says. “But I don’t think it’s going to blow back in Cara’s face.”