When Caribou Coffee, the nation’s second largest coffeehouse chain, wanted to raise its visibility in Chicago (a market in need of a highly-caffeinated jolt of awareness) as a means to build sales, the company looked to Karwoski & Courage. Even though the Chicago represented the second largest market for Caribou in terms of store locations, the competition outnumbered Caribou 10 to one. Yet, while research showed that while Caribou scored high in terms of product quality, awareness was low.  Karwoski & Courage was hired to “move the needle.”

Research found that even though Caribou was lacking in visibility, the organization was unlike its competition in many varied ways.  Chiefly, Caribou considers itself “the best neighborhood coffee shop” and has a deep commitment to bettering the communities in which it operates. This attribute needed to a strong part of any program recommended by Karwoski & Courage.

With that situation as the foundation, Karwoski & Courage recommended creating a program that would make a direct, positive impact in the neighborhoods in which Caribou does business, while still increasing sales and benefiting the company’s brand. 

Karwoski & Courage created Grounds for the Community, a unique cause-marketing program designed to tie charitable donations to incremental store sales.  Each month, local non-profit organizations are selected at each store location and given “Community Cash” certificates to distribute to their membership. During a designated week, the non-profit organization promotes Grounds for the Community (with materials produced the Agency), instructs its members to turn in the Community Cash certificates (with purchase) at their neighborhood Caribou.  In return, the Caribou donates one dollar back to the charitable group for each certificate turned in. It’s an easy way for charities to earn money for their organizations. The added bonus to non-profits?  There is no limit to how much an organization can earn.


Before Grounds for the Community, Caribou’s community relations efforts were varied and inconsistent.  In creating this new program, Karwoski & Courage’s challenge was multiple: to create a program that had a consistent brand, that supported local non-profit causes and generated brand awareness for Caribou, and that drove traffic to the stores and incremental dollars to the bottom line. 

With Grounds for the Community, the potential was there to create a strong emotional connection with Caribou’s target consumer while presenting stores with an opportunity to get new customers “in the door.” Once in, Caribou’s awareness and understanding study showed that customers would return to get a quality cup of coffee.


A benchmark A&U study was conducted in all Caribou markets prior to public relations efforts.  Qualitative interviews were also conducted with representatives from select non-profits as well as Caribou store personnel.

Strategic Approach:

Karwoski & Courage established a “branded” program—Grounds for the Community—that encompasses all Caribou cause marketing efforts, and helps to position Caribou as a good neighbor and corporate citizen. 
The Grounds for the Community name has double meaning; grounds, as in coffee grounds, or as a neighborhood gathering place.

Beneficiary non-profits must be local in nature, which further solidifies Caribou’s commitment to the community in which it operates.

Due to the program’s grassroots nature, it uniquely positions Caribou against its competitors.

Campaign Execution:

The Grounds for the Community program was launched in Caribou stores during Fall 2001. Signage, buttons and brochures promoted the program in-store, and employees were urged to recruit qualifying non-profit organizations in their communities.  Karwoski & Courage created a creative packet of marketing materials for charities participating, including posters, flyers, e-mail and voice mail scripts, news release templates and newsletter copy.  To further ensure the success of the program, the agency asked non-profits to sign a contract to promote.

During the Grounds for the Community week held each month, stores made welcome signs for the non-profits and collected the Community Cash certificates in a visible container.

Summary of Results:

During the first six months of Grounds for the Community, dozens of charities received sizable checks from Caribou.

The company was looked upon favorably among current customers and overall company awareness was raised.

Managers noticed a marked increase in sales during the Grounds for the Community weeks, including one store that reported a 20 percent increase over previous week sales.  The increase was attributed to the increase in customer counts because of the program.

Stores located nearby also benefited from increased customer counts and higher sales.

Caribou was enjoying an overwhelmingly positive response to the program among store employees.

The non-profit organizations began to hold regular meetings at the Caribou stores where they had participated.