Consumers bullish on cause marketing

PJ staff report

Marketing products and services to benefit social and environmental causes is growing and Americans want to see more of it, a new study says.

Forty-one percent of Americans say they purchased a product in the past year because it was associated with a social or environmental cause, up from 20 percent in 1993, according to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study.

It says 83 percent of consumers want more of the products, services and retailers they use to benefit causes.

Eighty-one percent of consumers say companies during an economic downturn should provide financial support for causes at the same level or higher, and 64 percent say companies responded well to social and environmental issues during the recent recession.

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

What’s more, when it supports a cause, 61 percent of Americans would be willing try a new brand or one unfamiliar to them, 46 percent would try a generic or private-label brand, and 19 percent would be willing to buy a more expensive brand.

“When price and quality are equal, we know most consumers will choose the product benefiting the cause,” Alison DaSilva, executive vice president at Cone,  says in a statement.

“But cause alignment can have an even bigger influence on consumer choice, pushing them to experiment with something different and unfamiliar,” she says. “Cause branding is a prime opportunity for companies to extend beyond their traditional market and increase exposure to potential new consumers.”

Mothers are the demographic group most open to cause marketing, the study says, while “Millennials” ages 18 to 24 follow close behind.

In the face of a rise in popularity for consumer voting campaigns, 61 consumers say they prefer that a company make a long-term commitment to a focused issue rather than determining themselves which issue the company supports in the short term.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.

And while they continue to want companies to set priorities close to home for causes they support, consumers are gradually seeing the need to companies also to address global issues.

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