Forty-one percent of Americans say they have purchased a product in the past year because it was associated with a social or environmental cause (41%), a two-fold increase since Cone first began measuring in 1993 (20%). But even as their purchasing power grows, consumer appetite for socially conscious shopping has yet to be satiated. A full 83% of consumers want more of the products, services and retailers they use to benefit causes, according to the new 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study.

Overall, 88% of respondents said they believed cause marketing was “acceptable,” 80% said such marketing made them likely to switch brands, and 19% were willing to pay more for a pricier brand that participated in a positive social or environmental cause.

Moms and Millennials Most Cause-Conscious Consumers

Mothers and millennials, those ages 18 to 24, are even more enthusiastic about the importance of cause marketing.  A staggering 95% of moms find cause marketing acceptable (vs. 88% average), and 92% want to buy a product supporting a cause (vs. 81% average).  Millennials are close on moms’ heels as they also shop with an eye toward the greater good. Ninety-four percent of Millennials find cause marketing acceptable (vs. 88% average) and more than half (53%) have bought a product benefiting a cause this year (vs. 41% average).

Consumers’ Expectations Not Dampened by Economy

Even as businesses face a set of complex new issues driven by the state of the economy, consumers remain steadfast in their expectations of what companies should address.  Eighty-one percent said companies should financially support causes at the same level or higher during an economic downturn.  85% have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about, and 80% are likely to switch brands, similar in price and quality, to one that supports a cause.

Not only are consumers willing to switch among similar brands, they are also willing to step outside their comfort zones. When it supports a cause:

  • 61% of Americans say they would be willing to try a new brand or one unfamiliar to them;
  • 46% would try a generic or private-label brand; and,
  • Nearly one-in-five consumers (19%) would be willing to purchase a more expensive brand.

With social and environmental causes almost universally popular, and their importance even greater in the key target markets of moms and millennials, cause marketing can give a big boost to brand marketing.

“Cause branding is a prime opportunity for companies to extend beyond their traditional market and increase exposure to potential new consumers,” said Alison DaSilva, executive vice president at Cone, in a statement.

[Source:  2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study.  Cone. 15 Sept. 2010.  Web.  28 Sept. 2010.]