Whether despite or because of the recession, consumers are more inclined than ever to spend their money with companies and brands that have dedicated themselves to a social purpose, according to new findings from Edelman Worldwide's "goodpurpose Consumer Study."
According to the global survey of 6,000 people in 10 countries, 57% say a brand has earned their business because of its works supporting social causes. Furthermore, 61% say they have purchased a brand that supports a good cause even when it wasn't the cheapest option, and 67% said they would switch brands if another brand of similar quality supported a cause they were interested in.
"The trend [of increased corporate social responsibility] was happening before the recession, but it's escalating now," Mitch Markson, Edelman's chief creative officer, president of its brand consulting group and founder of its goodpurpose practice, tells Marketing Daily. "The seeds were there before, but I think this [recession] has accelerated its importance."
According to the survey, 83% of global consumers say they are willing to change their consumption habits if it helps make the world a better place to live, and 68% feel it's becoming unacceptable not to make efforts to show concern for the environment or live a healthy lifestyle.
Consumers expect their purchases to reflect those attitudes; 64% of them said they expect companies to support causes. "We saw consumers saying they expected companies to give equal weight to societal and business goals," Markson says. "In the past, corporate social responsibility was about mitigating risk. I think that's starting to change."
While some factors of the recession -- such as people having less disposable income to spend on their own social causes and instead looking for brands to pick up the slack -- have had an effect on the importance of social responsibility for consumers, Markson gives more credit to the rise of social networking and the transparency of the Internet. "Social media is really driving the conversation and action," he says. "Because of social networks, all of this has been reinstated and refueled."
With such transparency (and an increase in consumer awareness of corporate social responsibility), marketers will have to make sure their social responsibility efforts are authentic, Markson says. No longer can a company just donate money to a cause and leave it at that. "It has to have imagination and be a good idea and have a shelf life," he says. "If you're really being authentic about a social cause, it can't just be a promotion."
The benefits can be enormous. Not only are consumers willing to switch to brands that support causes they care about, they're also willing to recommend them to others. According to the survey, 64% said they would recommend a brand that supports a good cause (up from 52% last year), and 59% said they would help a brand promote its products if there were a good cause behind them.
And they are more willing to give up on luxuries to buy products that carry some importance to them. According to the survey, 67% of global consumers said they would prefer to buy a hybrid vehicle over a luxury car (33%) and 70% would prefer owning an eco-friendly house rather than a large house.
"Social purpose is the new social status," Markson says. "[Marketers] have to figure out how to build a bridge between corporate social responsibility and the brand."