There is a "rising disconnect" between the causes companies support and the products they sell that is leaving consumers skeptical and less likely to participate, according to New York-based MSLGROUP.
Although the majority of Americans (96%) say they can identify two to three causes that are important to them personally, the recent 2011 MSLGROUP Social Purpose Index found that only 37% of Americans have actually purchased a product associated with a cause in the past year.
This skepticism is a result of many companies supporting causes that don't necessarily make sense for their business or their brands. Seventy-four percent of Americans agree that there is often too much of a disconnect between the causes companies support and the brands and products they sell (74%), while nearly as many (67%) feel that companies only support causes to sell products.
"These findings suggest that simply tying a cause to your product to get consumers to purchase is no longer enough, despite what others are telling you," said Scott Beaudoin, SVP, North America director of cause marketing and CSR at MSLGROUP, in a release. "In order to connect with consumers in an authentic and meaningful way, companies need to elevate beyond purpose-driven table stakes and better align their core competencies with societal needs in order to fuel greater participation and profits."
The findings are based on an online survey conducted March/April, 2011 by ORC among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults ages 18 and older.
The study shows that consumers are willing to support causes that are not necessarily the causes they care most about. In fact, more than half (55%) of Americans surveyed gave their time and/or money in the past year to support hunger, yet only 22% ranked hunger among the top three causes they view as most important. These gaps between the issues consumers rank most important and those they actually support also appeared among the issues of poverty and homelessness.
What is most important is not that companies merely create cause programs to support the causes their consumers care most about, but that companies are strategically aligning with relevant, real causes that fit within their brands' greater purpose and make the most sense in conjunction with their products and services, according to MSLGROUP.