These days, nobody looks twice when you see someone balancing a takeaway coffee cup in one hand and driving with the other as they weave through traffic. Indeed, even people who take it one step further – rushing past you in the street with a coffee and a croissant all while talking on the phone have become somewhat commonplace. And yet when I saw a girl brandishing a beautifully designed ceramic cup, like some kind of shining talisman I must admit I was intrigued.

Upon further investigation, I learnt that this cup was part of a cause-marketing event by the Scandinavian company, Vipp. Vipp began way back in 1939 when the founder of the company designed and made a futuristic-looking pedal bin for his wife – a prototype that would launch the company and help it expand into a lifestyle universe of kitchen and bathroom ware with their signature attention to form and detail.

With a history defined by metal and retro-futuristic design, Vipp wanted to show people they had moved from metals into new materials such as ceramics. The opening of their new flagship store in Copenhagen was a perfect opportunity to do this. The head of press at Vipp, Christina Hinding, explained that they wanted to do something different than just the regular, ‘Hey! Come and see the new elephant!’ spiel and the idea to open the ‘A Cup for Charity’, pop-up charity coffee shop, was born. The idea was as simple as Vipp’s design aesthetic; people could buy cake and a coffee (served in a signature ceramic Vipp cup of course) and were encouraged to take the cups home – pushing takeaway coffee to new heights. All proceeds from the pop-up café were donated to Doctors Without Borders.

With minimal promotion; just press, social media and newsletters – A Cup for Charity was very well received and saw an influx of new customers, despite a summer that was warmer than expected. And we all know that people prefer to drink coffee in cooler weather. For Vipp, they felt Doctors without Borders was the perfect fit – doing good and helping people across the world, which also allows Vipp to expand the concept to other markets. This was borne out when news of the event spread and stores from other markets contacted the Vipp head office, wanting to recreate the same concept for themselves – something Vipp had not at first considered. Seeing how a company doing something good can mobilise not only their customers but also their staff is a great lesson for any organisation.

While A Cup for Charity garnered great attention from the press, Christina would have liked more resources to back-up the event, but as a family-run company with an understated aesthetic, Vipp likes to allow their initiatives to speak for themselves. And while Vipp may not shout loudest, they are no strangers to doing ‘business as unusual’. In 2005, Vipp launched an art project featuring 150 of their signature pedal bins, interpreted by world-renowned artists. These were then auctioned for charity. Some people may say art is rubbish… but perhaps rubbish can be art too!

For Vipp, A Cup for Charity was an initiative that functioned in two ways. Not only did it give to charity and signal the company’s commitment to doing good, it also drew people into the store and helped familiarise them with the growing family of Vipp products, including ceramics and kitchenware. It must not be forgotten that Doctors Without Borders also benefited – seeing a new fundraising tool where people’s donations were rewarded with a functional, beautiful object rather than yet another wristband, ribbon or badge. When you can get people to walk through the city showing off a ceramic cup with a feel-good message, you have hit on a real head-turner and conversation starter; something much more powerful than almost any traditional advertising media.

This post is part of a series highlighting cause marketing campaigns from around the world called ‘Global Voices’ written for Cause Marketing Forum. See the original post here. 

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Thomas Kolster © 2017
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