Brands have been aligning themselves with positive causes for many years, and seeing a positive impact on their bottom lines when they do so. And the inclination among consumers to buy from brands playing a socially productive role in the world is only growing.
A study by public relations company Edelman, which looked at how consumers around the world interact with brands that promote a social purpose, found that in 2012, consumers considerably redoubled their focus on buying from societally engaged brands. Between 2008 and 2010, approximately 42% of internet users said that when quality and price were the same, brands that had a social purpose were more likely to trigger a purchase. In 2012, that figure bumped up 11 percentage points to 53%.
There is also evidence that many of those who choose to buy from cause-supporting brands are doing so more frequently. In 2010, 67% of respondents reported buying from such a brand at least once a year. That number held relatively steady in 2012, at 66%. But where the tendencies really diverged was among those who frequently made purchases with societal impact in mind. Nearly half of those who bought from cause-supporting brands in 2012 said they did so monthly. That’s compared to only 32% who bought with the same frequency in 2010.
Respondents did not choose overwhelmingly any one way that brands would do best to support societal causes. Donating profits or services came in neck-and-neck as the favored methods. Less direct initiatives like encouraging employees to volunteer and collaborating with other companies ranked lower on the totem pole.
And of course, brands are not only interested in getting consumers buying but in getting their friends to buy too. Here again social impact plays a strong role. Three-quarters of consumers worldwide said they would recommend a product from a company that supported a good cause, and the same number would share a positive opinion of that company.
For a brand that wants to align itself with a good cause, there is plenty of incentive. Where cause marketing may become trickier is homing in on that initiative—engaging with a cause that is authentic to the brand and persuasive to the consumer—and then communicating the role the brand is playing in making a real impact. Respondents worldwide named improving healthcare as the No. 1 cause worth supporting, and protecting the environment as No. 2. In the US specifically, alleviating hunger and homelessness tied with healthcare as the top cited causes.
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