View More Cause Marketing Headlines

AMERICAN ENTHUSIASM TO SHOP WITH A CONSCIENCE AT RECORD-HIGH, BUT DOUBTS ABOUT CORPORATE IMPACT PERSIST

 
U.S. consumer purchasing of products associated with a cause up 170% since 1993,
according to new research from Cone Communications

 
Hispanics emerge as one of the most socially conscious and active population segments
 
BOSTON (October 2, 2013) – American demand for cause is stronger than ever, according to 20 years of benchmarking data released today by Cone Communications. Despite a marketplace saturated with cause-related programs and messages, the U.S. consumer appetite for corporate support of social and environmental issues appears insatiable, according to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study:
  • 54 percent bought a product associated with a cause over the last 12 months, increasing 170 percent since 1993
  • 89 percent of Americans are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, jumping nearly 35 percent since 1993
  • 91 percent wants even more of the products and services they use to support cause
  • 88 percent wants to hear how companies are supporting social and environmental issues
The 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study is the latest in Cone’s pioneering analysis of Americans’ attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around corporate support of social and environmental issues.
 
“In the midst of the ribbonization of America – where it’s near-impossible to walk down a store aisle without spotting a cause – consumers want to see even more brands engage in social and environmental issues,” observes Alison DaSilva – executive vice president, Research & Insights – Cone Communications. “Through 20 years of research, Americans’ inclinations to shop for good has ebbed and flowed, alongside economic upheaval, political unrest and acts of terrorism. But one thing remains clear: consumer demand for cause is stronger than ever, solidifying it as a savvy business strategy.”
 
The Demand for Proof of Progress
Although the number of pressing social issues is vast, Americans are clear in the areas they most want companies to focus. Economic development is the number one priority for the majority of consumers (44%), and they want to feel the impact of corporate efforts close to home in their local communities (43%).
 
However, high consumer demand comes with high expectations for impact – and the study reveals the majority of Americans are uncertain of the extent to which corporate and individual efforts result in meaningful change. Despite a plethora of cause initiatives, fewer than one-in-five consumers (16%) believes companies have made significant positive impact on social or environmental issues, and just 25 percent believes their own purchases substantially influence those issues.
 
“U.S. consumers’ hearts are in the right place, but they are clamoring for proof of progress. They need verification that the efforts of companies, as well as their own personal participation in cause marketing, are affecting quantifiable social impact,” says Craig Bida, executive vice president – Social Impact, Cone Communications. “The onus is on companies to go beyond mission statements to provide personally relevant and tangible evidence that collectively, businesses and consumers are moving the needle.”
 
Gap Between Intention and Action
Ambiguity around perceived impact not only raises a red flag for marketers as corporate efforts go potentially unnoticed, but may also explain the gap between Americans’ intended and reported behaviors when it comes to engaging in social and environmental issues.
  • 88 percent of Americans say they would buy a product with a social or environmental benefit, and 54 percent reports already doing so this year
  • 79 percent says they would donate if given the opportunity, and 65 percent has actually done so in the past year
  • 76 percent says they would volunteer, but only 42 percent has reported doing just that in the past 12 months
  • 84 percent indicates they would tell friends and family about corporate cause efforts, but just 38 percent actually has
  • 88 percent would boycott, but fewer than half (42%) reports doing so in the past year
Hispanics Emerge as One of Most Socially Engaged Consumer Segments
One consumer segment bucking the trend is the U.S. Hispanic population. Representing one of the most actively engaged consumer segments to-date, Hispanics are more likely to show up to partner with corporations in efforts to solve social and environmental issues:
  • Hispanics are more apt than the general U.S. population to purchase products and services associated with causes (94% vs. 89% general population)
  • They more frequently go beyond the register to donate (70% vs. 65%), volunteer (47% vs. 42%) and advocate on behalf of companies (43% vs. 38%)
“This new era of social impact, where proof of purpose is critical, also spotlights the audiences driving the growth of corporate support of issues,” Bida explains. “Hispanics are leading the way – they’re the fastest growing population segment in the U.S., and as they seek to build a better life for their families and communities, they’re looking to companies as critical partners in that effort. Other influential audiences, including African Americans and Millennials, are also populations to watch as this crucial business strategy continues to evolve.”
 
Communicating Impact
As cause evolves, so too are the channels in which to engage these emerging cause champions, as well as stakeholders in general. Traditional channels of on-product messaging (21%), media (16%) and advertising (16%) still hold tremendous value as Americans indicate they are among the most effective ways to reach them with cause-related information. However, social media is opening new doors in the world of social impact, giving consumers near-immediate access to information about companies, the issues they support and ways to get involved.
  • 51 percent of Americans report using social media to engage with companies around social and environmental issues (55% African Americans; 62% Hispanics; 64% Millennials)
  • 27 percent is doing so to champion corporate efforts and initiatives (33% African Americans; 31% Hispanics; 34% Millennials)
  • 20 percent acknowledges using social channels to share negative information about companies and issues (19% African Americans; 23% Hispanics; 26% Millennials)
“The consumer mandate for companies to do more than stand for something and show proof of purpose is absolute,” Bida says. “Americans are also resoundingly clear in their desire to be engaged and help make a tangible difference. Companies must engage new audiences and utilize new channels to deliver meaningful social impact.”

View More Cause Marketing Headlines