The CRI is an index based on three key components of consumer perceptions of social causes: 1) The personal importance a particular cause has for specific consumers; 2) How personally involved consumers are with those causes; and 3) The degree to which consumers expect companies/brands to be involved with or support those causes.
Those factors are computed into a single metric that MediaVest's teams can use to fine-tune campaign strategies and media buys.
"There are a lot of questions from our clients, about what are the right causes for them to be involved in, and how they should go about identifying where to invest, where to tie their brands, and how to be relevant if they're going to make a commitment to a cause," says Dave Shiffman, vice president-media research director at MediaVest, who developed the CRI.
One of the things MediaVest has learned is that if marketers are going to utilize causes in their campaign and media strategies, they must be based on genuine commitments, because otherwise the tie-in could backfire on them if consumers perceive it just to be a "marketing game" that is simply exploiting their connection to a cause.
The research also shows there are marked differences among consumers in terms of the types of causes they support, or would like to see marketers support.
The No. 1 cause the average American would like to see marketers supporting is education/schools/literacy, followed by local community charities, health- or disease-related programs, environmental/green causes, poverty, children-related causes, and women-related causes.
But that's the view from the general population. When Shiffman drills into the CRI, he says distinct patterns emerge among various types of consumers, especially ethnic and racial cultural differences, as well as generational distinctions.
For example, he says Hispanics and African Americans are much more personally involved in the causes they support and expect marketers to be as well.
On the other hand, Shiffman says Generation X-ers - people born in the late 1960s and 1970s - live up to their reputation for being socially unmotivated slackers.
"When it comes to causes, Generation X continues to carry that same chip on their shoulders," Shiffman says, adding that the generation is distinguished from others that are generally involved in causes - though the relevance of causes various among generations.
Boomers, he says, tend to support things like "public broadcasting," but tend to be average overall.
Generation Y, or Millennials, he says tend to be especially involved in causes, particularly those involving the environment and global/international issues.
There also are gender differences, according to Shiffman, who notes that women - especially moms - tend to be extremely involved in children's, education, women's and church and community related causes.