Sep 20, 2010 at 08:22 PM
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Study: Consumers Want More Cause

According to a new study from Boston-based communications and branding agency, Cone, LLC, 83 percent of consumers want more of the products, services and retailers they use to benefit causes. Forty-one percent of Americans say they have purchased a product in the past year because it was associated with a social or environmental cause (41%), a two-fold increase since Cone first began measuring in 1993 (20%).

The study also showed the effects of the recession on consumer's attitudes towards cause marketing. Eighty-one percent said companies should financially support causes at the same level or higher during an economic downturn. It appears business rose to this challenge – nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers believe companies responded well to social and environmental issues during the recession. Americans’ enthusiasm for cause marketing continues to strongly influence their purchase decisions:

  • 88% say it is acceptable for companies to involve a cause or issue in their marketing;
  • 85% have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about; and,
  • 80% are likely to switch brands, similar in price and quality, to one that supports a cause.

    The study also shows that consumers are willing to be more adventurous with purchasing decisions, when it supports a cause:

  • 61% of Americans say they would be willing to try a new brand or one unfamiliar to them;
  • 46% would try a generic or private-label brand; and,
  • Nearly one-in-five consumers (19%) would be willing to purchase a more expensive brand.

    “When price and quality are equal, we know most consumers will choose the product benefiting the cause,” explains Alison DaSilva, executive vice president at Cone. “But cause alignment can have an even bigger influence on consumer choice, pushing them to experiment with something different and unfamiliar. Cause branding is a prime opportunity for companies to extend beyond their traditional market and increase exposure to potential new consumers.”

    Moms lead the way as the demographic most amenable to cause marketing. 95 percent find cause marketing acceptable (vs. 88% average), and 92 percent want to buy a product supporting a cause (vs. 81% average). They are also more likely to switch brands (93% vs. 80% average), so it is hardly surprising that moms purchased more cause-related products in the past year than any other demographic (61% vs. 41% average). Ninety-four percent of 18-24 years old find cause marketing acceptable (vs. 88% average) and more than half (53%) have bought a product benefiting a cause this year (vs. 41% average).

    The study shows that consumers want companies to prioritize support of issues close to home, in local communities (46%) and in the U.S. (37%), but they are gradually recognizing the need for companies to address issues globally, as well (17%). The leading causes consumers want companies to support include:

    Economic development – 77%

    Health and disease – 77%

    Hunger – 76%

    Education – 75%

    Access to clean water – 74%

    Disaster relief – 73%

    Environment – 73%

    “Cause branding is standing the test of time, but leadership companies must continue to innovate to ensure their programs offer an original consumer experience, tackle tough emerging issues and make bold new commitments,” says DaSilva. “Those that are most successful and meeting the competing needs of many stakeholders are aligning issues with the business for mutual benefit and integrating these efforts into a larger corporate responsibility strategy for maximum impact.”