Consumers More Critical Of Cause Marketing


Marketing trends follow the fickle winds of consumer sentiment and popular culture, but aren't corporate goodwill, cause marketing, and "social good" fairly immutable and founded on a granite bedrock of virtue? Anyone who has attended Association of National Advertisers marketing conferences in recent months knows that is no longer the case. More companies -- PepsiCo, P&G, and smaller companies like Timberland and Toms Shoes come to mind -- are making social-good and cause-marketing efforts central to their core brand identity and consumer marketing.

"One of the most interesting developments in the area of social good is the rise of 'shared value' -- by putting social issues at the center of their strategy, brands can benefit their business, their customers and society in general," says Tony Pigott, global director of EthosJWT and president and CEO of JWT Canada, in a report. "By reconsidering products and target demographics, forging partnerships with local groups and improving productivity in the value chain, companies can become a force for positive change while enhancing their long-term competitiveness."



The trend report from JWT's JWTIntelligence and EthosJWT divisions got a consumer and corporate pulse on where corporate goodwill is heading by interviewing experts and influencers from the nonprofit and corporate social responsibility sectors, and surveyed 908 adults ages 18-plus.

What might be called "cause marketing carte blanche" (JWT calls it "goodwashing") definitely no longer cuts it, per the study. Amorphous claims of goodwill activities no longer cut it. The firm says consumers now expect greater accountability from nonprofits and brands involved in cause marketing. Consumers now want to know where the money is going and the impact it has. More transparency will mean a greater focus on effecting real change.

The firm says fewer companies are making cause marketing and social-good efforts sideline activities. They are integrating social issues into their core strategies. The idea is to create "shared value," meaning that generating a profit and achieving social progress are not mutually exclusive goals.

"A number of macro trends are influencing social good initiatives today, including the call for greater transparency, as well as greater corporate and brand participation, rapid urbanization and advancements in technology," says Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT in the report. "As a result, we're seeing less 'goodwashing,' creative strategies for urban renewal and innovative new donation channels from for-profits and nonprofits alike."

Among the areas where companies are focusing their efforts is urban renewal, with corporations getting involved in strategies for improving local environments, adding beauty or helping to bring communities together. BMW's program with The Guggenheim Museum -- BMW Guggenheim Lab -- comes to mind. It involves an urban community space for conversations and experiments in art, design, and social commentary is traveling from city to city around the world in coming months.

Ninety percent of respondents said "companies need to do more good, not just less bad." More Canadians (95%) felt this way than Britons (91%) and Americans (83%). Nearly as many adults across all three markets agreed with the statement, "Brands and large corporations have a responsibility to improve the local communities in which they do business." Those in Canada (87%) and the U.K. (87%) agreed with this more than respondents in the U.S. (77%).

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