Indy AMA
Indianapolis Chapter of the American Marketing Association


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Goodwill: Leveraging Your Budget while Growing a Brand Identity

Written by Sally Cutler

You’ve probably seen Goodwill’s television commercials — after all, they’ve been airing since 1996 — but you may not have thought about the conscious decision-making that has gone into the development and focus of these commercials as well as their impact on Goodwill.

Kent Kramer, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, Inc., shared his insights with IndyAMA during last week’s September luncheon meeting, where he described how Goodwill, a non-profit organization, has successfully leveraged a modest advertising and promotional budget to grow their brand awareness and identity.

Prior to 1996, Goodwill spent little on advertising but wanted to increase sales in stores as well as net income. They examined their brand and how they wanted to be known — as a nonprofit, a charity, a retailer? They chose to position themselves as an aspirational shopping environment and created television commercials featuring the inaugural appearance of the “Goodwill guy” — focused on driving shoppers into their stores. The commercials are syndicated in approximately 26 markets, and the Goodwill guy’s identity remains a closely guarded secret.

With strong creative (including a memorable tagline— Good stuff. Good prices. Good cause.) and a focus on the stores as clean and well-merchandised, with effective signage with mission/message integration, the commercials drove increased donations. Store sales eventually outpaced donations. (Even without opening any new stores in 1997, they saw a 23% increase in revenue.)

With the opening of additional stores, advertising messages shifted to encourage not only shopping but to focus on the value of donating and to communicate more about Goodwill’s programs and their positive impact on the community. Research indicates that the more people know about the programs, the more likely they are to support Goodwill Industries and its unique, holistic approach involving education, employment and health to help employers bridge the middle-skill employment gap.

Two initiatives of note are the Excel Center program and the Nurse-Family Partnership. The 11 Central Indiana Excel Centers are public schools for adults who want to earn a high school diploma, with nearly 3,000 students enrolled in 2015-16. The Nurse-Family Partnership pairs mothers pregnant with their first child with a registered nurse for ongoing home visits. Finding the right balance of messaging between retail and mission is difficult, Kramer acknowledges, as they strive to find new, effective ways to share stories of the good work Goodwill is doing.

While Kramer wakes up each day thinking about Goodwill and what they do, he realizes that of course not everyone does this. And that drives Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana to continue to work to build brand awareness with the hope that they can empower individuals to reach their potential.