Conventional Cause Marketing Evolves Via Social Media

Raquel KrouseEditor's Note: This story has been updated.

In an increasingly personalized media landscape, the surest way for brands to engage consumers is through cause marketing, according to new analysis from IPG Emerging Media Lab's team of digital experts.

That social media is the order of the day is no secret and no fad, according to Raquel Krouse, social media practice lead at IPG's Emerging Media Lab.

Indeed, from Facebook to YouTube, six of the top 10 most-trafficked Web sites in 2008 were community-based, according to IPG. "But it has been a very tough nut to crack for marketers," said Krouse.

In that context, she added, diverse forms of cause marketing are "becoming very successful."

In the United States, IPG's Lab found that 92% of consumers said they have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause, while 87% said--when price and quality are equal--they are more likely to choose a brand associated with a cause.



About 78% of consumers, meanwhile, think it important for brands to involve themselves in worthy causes--while worldwide, 60% attest to not buying from brands that they consider bad corporate citizens.

Of course, brands have attempted to build good faith with consumers by supporting worthy causes for years. McDonald's, for instance, opened the first Ronald McDonald House--which provides parents with affordable room and board when their children stay at nearby hospitals--in 1974.

Yet, according to Krouse, "conventional cause marketing has evolved from collection jars to mobile and widget-giving."

For marketers willing to adapt to an ever more social world, ROI can no longer stands for "return on investment"--at least in the short term--but "return on involvement," according to the Emerging Media Lab.

Along with generating involvement, other modern benchmarks for success include a brand's ability to engender "trusted referrals," a desire by consumers to "continuously discover" their brand--and, of course, naturally viral distribution.

Notably, IPG's Lab found a close correlation between participation in online communities and participation in social causes. About 75% of community members said they use the Internet to participate in communities related to social causes, with 40% participating at least monthly. Meanwhile, 87% of community members report participating in social causes that are new to them since their involvement in online communities began.

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