Consumers Give Marketers Bad Grades On Comms

So much for listening to your customers: A new study from Cone Inc. reveals that 47% of Americans think marketers are doing a lousy job in engaging consumers, even though 84% think their ideas would help make products and services better.

Should companies care? You bet, Jonathan Yohannan, senior vice president of Cone, tells Marketing Daily. "Companies not actively engaging their consumers and other stakeholders are missing opportunities for growth and innovation. Our research shows that consumers believe their ideas can help companies and that they want to be engaged. Consumers also indicate they will reward companies that use their ideas by buying products and services, remaining loyal or recommending the company to others."

The poll found that consumers want to be involved in four key areas -- how a company conducts its business (85%), products and packaging (83%), support of social and environmental issues (81%) and its marketing and advertising (74%). And they say they're willing to work at it, with 70% willing to take surveys and be part of research, 44% willing to buy or boycott a product, and 32% concerned enough to email or phone.

Transparency is also increasingly important to consumers. The poll found that 92% want companies to tell them what they're doing to improve their products, services and operations, although 87% believe the communication is one-sided. (And 67% say they are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their social and environmental policies.)

While the poll -- which included 1,045 adults -- was fielded a few weeks before the BP oil catastrophe, some 75% of Americans give companies a "C" or below on how they're engaging consumers around social and environmental issues.

"Companies must change the way they approach social and environmental challenges, as it is increasingly difficult to assert where a company's responsibility begins, where it ends and who is ultimately accountable for solving the issues that affect us all," he says.

One example of a company getting it right, he says, is Timberland, with its Earthkeepers program. "Its "Voices of Challenge" site brings together thought leaders, issue experts, practitioners and everyday consumers at the heart of an online dialogue designed to present ideas for future innovation," he says. Another is GreenXchange, a partnership between ten corporations and agencies, including Nike, Yahoo and Best Buy.

Tags: research
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