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When Doing Good to Drive Sales, Authenticity Matters

Brands using causes to push themselves face consumer skepticism

January 8, 2013

Even if consumers aren’t familiar with the phrase “cause marketing,” it is certain that they are acquainted with the concept of spending money to support positive actions. According to a new eMarketer report, “Marketing 'Good': How Causes Can Convert Online Shoppers,” a majority of US internet users have been moved to purchase because of a cause.

US Internet Users Who Have Ever Bought a Product Specifically Because Proceeds Went to a Cause or the Brand Supported a Cause, Oct 2012 (% of respondents)

Increasingly, though, shoppers expect greater accountability from companies involved in cause marketing and reassurance that their support is making a difference. It’s no longer enough to make vague promises and stick a feel-good label on a product.

Edelman’s 2012 global “goodpurpose” study found a growing number of consumers considered “social purpose,” the leading purchase driver when quality and price were equal. And, increasingly, consumers worldwide didn’t see a contradiction in brands profiting from supporting causes. Seventy-six percent said it was OK for brands to make money as a result of social purpose, a 33% increase from 2008.

Internet Users Worldwide Who Say Social Purpose Is a Purchase Trigger*, 2008-2012 (% of respondents)

But while consumers prefer to put dollars behind brands focused on positive social efforts, they are skeptical about overhyped claims and potentially fatigued by the number of marketing efforts vying for their attention. AYTM Market Research found in October that only 10% of consumers thought cause campaigns were always sincere, with the largest set (41%) believing that campaigns were insincere about half of the time.

To employ cause marketing authentically and effectively, there are a number of approaches brands can take. Humanizing the company using the immediacy of photos and video, especially combined with social media, can magnify a message. Working with nonprofits that align with a brand’s customer base is also important.

Finally, transparency around the company’s goals and actions is essential. Customers want to know not only where their money is going but what good it has done.

And companies shouldn’t be afraid to show failures as well as successes. According to Craig Bida, executive vice president at Cone Communications, “We know that about 70% of consumers say ‘Don’t tell me you’re perfect about your corporate social responsibility efforts, don’t tell me you’re perfect as a company, because I know you’re not perfect ... But tell me where you’re going and where you are.’”

The full report, “Marketing 'Good': How Causes Can Convert Online Shoppers,” also answers these key questions:

  • Are shoppers willing to pay more for products that support their beliefs?
  • Which age group is most likely to make mobile donations?
  • Do social media users follow charitable organizations?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.

Check out today’s other articles, “How Are Smartphone and PC Internet Users Different?” and “Total Ad Spend in Latin America Growing at Fastest Pace Worldwide.”


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