WORKSHOP: Case Study - Traidcraft's entry amuses but loses

Francois Le Goff

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Traidcraft is a charity and trading company that promotes fair trade practices and helps small producers living in poor countries to sell their products in the developed world. Its sales are worth more than £12m a year, providing vital income for producers in more than 30 countries.

In September, Traidcraft entered the competition to win the support of The Guardian as part of its Christmas charity appeal 2003. Each year at Christmas, the paper selects two charities to support. Last year's winners, WaterAid and Fairbridge, received £437,280 and £221,130 respectively.

Aims Selection by The Guardian for its Christmas charity appeal offers significant coverage. The paper features a series of articles about the winners for more than a month, and it attracts vast amounts of money through donations. In order to catch The Guardian's attention and maximise its chances, Traidcraft devised an awareness-raising campaign with marketing agency Feel, which started soon after the charity submitted its application form.

How it worked Feel advised Traidcraft that if it wanted to make a real impact on The Guardian, the charity should not rely on the application process but address the competition's jury directly. Moreover, instead of a mail bombardment, the agency advised Traidcraft to use humour. The campaign relied on a marketing strategy called AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Because the agency found out that there would be a gap of one month between submission of applications and the announcement of the winner, it designed a four-week campaign dedicating one week to each principle.

"The most exciting part of Traidcraft's brief was the targeting challenge," said Stephen Chandler, managing partner at Feel. "Effectively, the requirement here was for a classic piece of business-to-business communication, albeit on a small scale. But early in the process we didn't even know the name of the gatekeepers, let alone the decision makers."

The entrance to The Guardian's offices was where the jury was most likely to see the campaign. During the first week, Traidcraft placed a series of banners in Farringdon Road. The banners, which read: "Tea Pickers Wanted - Long hours - Hard work - No perks - No union - 6-day week. Salary - 34p a day", aimed to raise awareness of how little workers in developing countries are paid. The following week, the charity hung 100 bananas in nearby trees, each carrying a message outlining Traidcraft's enthusiasm to be chosen by The Guardian. Fair trade products were also put on sale in the paper's cafeteria. In week three, the charity produced a Guardian payslip featuring the monthly pay of a tea worker - £7.26. The fake document was sent to 30 senior editors. During the last week of the campaign, Feel set up a website www.naidraug.co.uk - guardian backwards. The site provided the paper with 12 articles about Traidcraft's activities. The web address was also printed on a banner and hung in Farringdon Road. Finally, as the verdict approached, the charity distributed a four-page tabloid called The Morning Sentinal to Guardian staff.

Results Despite all the effort, Traidcraft did not win. In fact, The Guardian decided not to nominate a trade charity midway through the process.

However, the paper said it was flattered to have received so much attention and found the campaign very amusing.

The campaign was so unusual that RNID has asked Feel if it could meet to talk about it. "In the context of increased competition for grants, an application form is not enough anymore. This campaign may pave the way for more cunning and pushy fundraising campaigns," said Chris Arnold, creative director at Feel.

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