More than ever, consumers prefer to spend their money with brands and companies that have dedicated themselves to a positive social purpose, according to a study conducted by Edelman Worldwide's Good Purpose Consumer Study
According to the global survey of 6,000 people in 10 countries, 57% say that a brand has earned their business because of their support for a social cause. 61% say they have purchased from a brand that supports a good cause, even when that product was not the cheapest. And 67% of respondents would be willing to switch brands if another of similar quality supported a cause they sympathized with.
"The trend [of increased corporate social responsibility] was happening before the recession, but it's escalating now," Mitch Markson, Edelman's chief creative officer, president of its brand consulting group and founder of its good purpose practice, told Marketing Daily. "The seeds were there before, but I think this [recession] has accelerated its importance."
The survey found that 83% of consumers worldwide were willing to change their consumption patterns if it helped make the place a better place to live in. 68% feel it unacceptable not to make efforts to express concern for the environment or live a healthy lifestyle.
Consumers expect brands to reflect these attitudes. 64% of them said that they expect companies to support causes. "We saw consumers saying they expected companies to give equal weight to societal and business goals," Markson says. "In the past, corporate social responsibility was about mitigating risk. I think that's starting to change."
While certain factors of the recession have affected the importance people place on social responsibility (primarily have a lowered disposable income and expecting brands to pick up the slack), Markson credits the rise of social networking and the internet's transparency for this rise. "Social media is really driving the conversation and action," he says. "Because of social networks, all of this has been reinstated and refueled."
This transparency, as well as an increase in consumer awareness of corporate responsibility, means that marketers will have to ensure their efforts for social responsibility are authentic. Companies must do more than just donate money to a cause. "It has to have imagination and be a good idea and have a shelf life," he says. "If you're really being authentic about a social cause, it can't just be a promotion."
The benefits for a company can be enormous: consumers are not only willing to switch to brands that support the causes they're passionate about, they're also willing to recommend them to their friends. According to this survey, 64% said they would recommend a brand that supported a good cause (an increase from 52% last year); 59% said they would help a brand remote its products if there was a good cause behind them.
Consumers seem willing to give up luxuries to purchase products that have some meaning to them. For example 67% of global consumers would prefer to buy a hybrid vehicle over a luxury car (33%) while 70% would prefer owning an eco-friendly house rather than a large house.
"Social purpose is the new social status," Markson says. "[Marketers] have to figure out how to build a bridge between corporate social responsibility and the brand."