Cause Related Marketing Influences Sales

The 2008 Cone/Duke University Behavioral Cause Study, released recently by Cone and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, confirms that cause-related marketing can exponentially increase sales, in one case as much as 74%, resulting in millions of dollars in potential revenue for brands.

182 participants evaluated a new regional magazine and were exposed to either a cause-related or generic corporate advertisement for one of four focus brands. Afterward, they entered a mock convenience store with nearly 150 SKUs and were given real money to purchase a product in each of the four categories.

Results revealed:

  • 74% increase in actual purchase for a shampoo brand when associated with a cause (47% of participants who saw the cause-related message chose the brand while only 27% of those who saw the generic corporate advertisement chose the brand)
  • 28% increase in actual purchase for a toothpaste brand when associated with a cause (64% of participants who saw the cause message chose the target brand vs. 50% who viewed the generic corporate advertisement)
  • Modest increases in the other two product categories tested (chips and light bulbs) - Qualitative consumer responses showed that the issue, the nonprofit and the inherent nature of products were key factors in making cause-related purchasing decisions, and helped explain why movement in these categories was not significant.

In the second phase of the research, Cone and Duke validated the sales increases for shampoo and toothpaste by replicating the study online among a nationally projectable sample of more than 1,000 adults. The participants spent nearly twice as long reviewing cause-related ads versus the general corporate advertisements.

This resulted in a 19% sales increase (similar to the lab study for the target toothpaste brand.) Although the shampoo brand increased only by a modest 5 percent, sales among its target audience of women increased by nearly 14 percent.

Gavan Fitzsimons, Duke marketing professor and lead researcher on the study, observes tha "... consumers are paying more attention to cause messages, and... are more likely to purchase... "

Additionally, Cone conducted the 2008 Cause Evolution Study, to better identify what drove substantial product sales for only two of the four brands. The following factors appeared to be important when deciding to support a company's cause efforts:

  • 84% want to select their own cause
  • 83% say personal relevance is key
  • 80% believe the specific nonprofit associated with the campaign matters
  • 77% say practical incentives for involvement, such as saving money or time, are important
  • 65% find emotional incentives for involvement, such as it making them feel good or alleviating shopping guilt, important

Alison DaSilva, Cone executive vice president, Knowledge Leadership and Insights, said "The findings... show (that)... consumers want to feel a connection to the issue and the nonprofit while fulfilling their personal needs... "

 According to the study, the leading issues that Americans want companies to address in their cause programs are consistent with growing domestic and global needs. The issues include:

  • Education - 80%
  • Economic development (i.e.: job creation, income generation, wealth accumulation) - 80%
  • Health and disease - 79%
  • Access to clean water - 79%
  • Environment - 77%
  • Disaster relief - 77%
  • Hunger - 77%

For more details from the study, and additional information about Cone, please visit here.


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