While Americans claim they are more likely to purchase a product if the brand supports a cause, and more than 40% have "liked" a brand or posted on Facebook for supporting a cause, barely one in five actually put their money where their good intentions are by switching brands, paying more or purchasing more, according to a new study co-sponsored by BlogHer and the recently launched Cause Consumer Engagement specialty at Ketchum.
"This research is significant because it contrasts what consumers actually do versus what they say they would do in reaction to a hypothetical cause marketing situation," said Kelley Skoloda, partner and director of Ketchum's Global Brand Marketing Practice. "In many instances, it appears cause programs have a far greater effect on brand affinity, reputation and share of voice than on sales. But the research also revealed the keys to turn talk into action."
While only 23% of consumers report a change in their purchase behavior based on a cause, nearly twice that number report using social media and word-of-mouth to talk about a cause.
"The study reveals four key drivers that brands must focus on to generate consumer engagement and sales," noted Melissa Kinch, senior vice president and associate director of Ketchum's North American Corporate Practice. "These drivers are target your most passionate audience, understand what they are passionate about, include local engagement opportunities, and leverage online influencers."
PERSONAL, LOCAL CAUSE SUPPORT CRITICAL TO SHORT-TERM SALES
The study finds people are willing to change purchase behavior if the cause aligns with their personal passions and impacts them, their community or someone close to them.
- Passion for a cause is the top reason why Americans evangelize a particular brand and the cause it supports, with 38% of adults saying it was the primary reason why they have written, blogged or tweeted about a brand and cause.
- People want cause support to be simple and easy: 48% are most receptive to programs from which companies donate a portion of sales to a cause, and 38% want companies to make it easy to support a cause online (e.g., become a Facebook friend).
- About half (46%) of those surveyed are motivated to buy a product from a company when it makes a donation to a local school or organization, a figure that jumps to 70% for older adults aged 65 to 76.
- Americans are most passionate about causes supporting breast cancer initiatives (44%), animals (36%) and children's causes (35%).
"The findings show consumers will purchase a product if they are passionate about the cause associated with it or if it's important to them and their loved ones," said Kinch. "Too often, brands focus on causes that are less relevant to consumers and later wonder why there is no impact on sales. While there's certainly still a place for longer-term reputational cause or responsibility programs that educate customers about causes, short-term sales are clearly driven by addressing consumers' personal passions."
YOUNG ADULTS ARE THE CAUSE TRENDSETTERS
The study also proves that companies interested in cause marketing benefit most from targeting young adults aged 18 to 27.
- While one-third of Americans report telling a friend or family member about a brand that was supporting a cause, nearly half of young adults were likely to do so.
- Young adults' passion also translates to sales: 36% bought more of a product because it supported a cause close to them, and more than one-third said they switched to – and paid more for – a brand supporting a cause that was important to them.