Let’s talk about our spending habits, shall we? More specifically, how much does a brand’s involvement to a cause affect your purchases? Does it matter to you if a brand supports a cause?
I write a lot about the brands, businesses and individuals who are doing their part to pay it forward. Years ago families would simply write one check to a charity of their choosing, so they could do something nice and get a tax deduction at the same time. Today there are so many easy ways for people to get involved and to give to others, including putting your consumer dollars behind brands that care about having a social impact. I write often about those types of efforts so that readers (like you) can decide what resonates with you and how you might choose to make a difference.
And I love that consumers are really starting to shop with a conscience. In the last 12 months, more than half of us have purchased a product with a social or environmental benefit, and more than half of us have bought a product associated with a specific cause. A company’s social impact influences where we shop, what we buy, and which products and services we recommend to others. Go us.
Consumers understand that we have a choice of where to put our dollars, and not just once a year but on a regular, long-term basis. In fact, 9 in 10 Americans would be more loyal to companies that back causes, and 9 in 10 want to see more products, services and retailers support social issues. We now reside in the land of socially responsible consumerism, and it will change the way brands operate.
Here is where the brands we buy from need to become clear. We consumers are a smart bunch, who can spot the difference between inauthentic cause marketing that uses a cause for personal profit and authentic corporate responsibility. We may still allow brands to use our social media channels for their efforts though. Half of us have used social media to engage with brands and companies around issues of social impact, from a tweet for a cause to liking a Facebook page for a small donation to charity.
Though we want to support brand that truly care about causes, at the same time we are still somewhat skeptical about whether these efforts are leading to real change. We want our dollars to make a difference, but we are not quite convinced yet. Fewer than one in five consumers believe that companies are making a significant positive impact on social and environmental issues.
And there is the next opportunity for brands. Though we may be skeptical, according to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study, 93% of consumers say that when a company supports a cause, they have a more positive image of the company.
The study found that 88% of consumers are eager to hear from companies about their social responsibility efforts. In my opinion, it will become a tricky balancing act for brands to show us consumers their positive impact without seeming too self-fulfilling. A constant barrage of press releases will be too much while an annual corporate responsibility report hidden on a company’s web site will not be nearly enough.
So the next phase of CSR is not just about creating the efforts but in refining them and in reporting their results to the public. Not only will brands have to address social, economical and environmental causes, they will then have to articulate how their efforts are helping in an authentic manner so that we as consumers can make even more informed decisions about which brands deserve our consumer dollars.
Does a brand’s involvement to a cause affect your purchase decisions? Would you research a brand to find out about their social impact? Does it matter to you if a brand supports a cause?