They don’t know what it’s like to live in a world without AIDS.
They don’t know what it’s like to live in a world without
Increased violence and drug use have transformed their schools
into high-security detention centers. It’s no wonder that
teenagers are becoming more concerned about how to improve the
world they live in - or that they recognize the contributions of
corporations who can help them.
The 1999 Cone/Roper Cause-Related Teen Survey is the first of its
kind to examine teens and causes, and one key finding is
providing corporations with an incentive to align themselves with
causes - the fact that teens respond.
The survey polled 600 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 and
found the following: Nine out of 10 (89%) teens value companies
that support causes they care about; 78% have purchased a product
that helped benefit a cause; 85% will continue to buy products
from companies that are supporting causes; and 80% will tell
their friends about a company’s commitment to a cause.
And when price and quality are equal, more than half (55%) of
teens surveyed said they would switch brands, and 64% said they
would switch retailers to one associated with a good cause.
Teens with major concerns
Even with many corporations embracing various causes, over
two-thirds of teens surveyed say current efforts are not enough.
Sixty-six percent say they’re concerned about violence in
schools, more than half are worried about drugs, 38% fear crime
and an equal number consider AIDS a major problem.
Those are pretty high numbers for an age group that’s generally
considered self-absorbed. ’The numbers were higher than we
expected,’ says CEO Carol Cone. ’If we’d done this survey with
Generation X, we would have seen a lot of apathy. But the
Internet gives teens a lot more access to information. Eight,
nine and 10-year-old kids know about the Nike sweat shops.’
And while this does seem to say a lot about how teens will be
making their buying decisions, John Paluszek, president of
Ketchum public affairs, offers some cautionary words. ’Who’s
gonna say that they don’t value companies that support causes,
especially young kids?’ asks Paluszek. ’There’s a core of
validity there, but it may be slightly overstated. But even if
10% feel that way, there isn’t a brand manager in this world that
wouldn’t kill for a 10% customer increase.’
Even so, Paluszek agrees that many corporations are keeping teens
in mind when developing cause-related marketing programs.
’Clients that market to teens consider it a tie-breaker,’ said
Paluszek. ’Cause-related marketing taps into the idealism and
altruism that exists at that age.’
But while teens say their dollar is more likely to go to a
company that supports a cause when price and quality are equal,
it is rare that both of these factors are exactly equal - which
may mean less of a boon to cause marketers than the numbers
Past Cone/Roper survey results - which examined the impact of
cause marketing on adults - yielded similar results; in a 1998
study, 83% of adults said they had a more positive image of
companies that support the causes they care about.
’It’s a trend we’re seeing more and more in society, of companies
doing good things for the community, their employees and
retirees,’ says Joan Gallagher, vice president of corporate
public affairs at Gillette. ’People are making their purchasing
decisions on good reputation.’
Jumping on the bandwagon
A number of corporations have recognized the impact that cause
marketing can have on their businesses, and have already
implemented programs. At the FUSE 1999 tour, headlined by the Goo
Goo Dolls, Levi’s has partnered with PAX, a non-profit
organization aimed at ending gun violence. At each concert stop,
Levi’s is helping to collect signatures - on a denim wall - for
PAX’s national youth petition, which will be presented to
President Clinton at the end of the year. The goal is to garner
one million signatures.
’We’ve had amazing feedback from market to market,’ says Carrie
Varoquiers, Levi’s cause marketing manager. ’There are swarms of
kids signing our denim wall in support for PAX. All the kids are
saying it’s great that someone is letting them be heard.’
Levi’s has also created safe-sex PSAs and sponsored the MTV
documentary ’Staying Alive,’ a program about the global AIDS
epidemic. ’Youths are very educated consumers,’ says Varoquiers.
’They’re voting with their dollar. This is a great way to wake
other companies up, to get the ball rolling and to listen to what
youths have to say.’
The survey results were also embraced by Gillette, which has been
active in helping to fight cancer in women and has made sure to
include teens in its initiatives. As part of a five-year plan
initiated in 1997, Gillette will award dollars 5 million to
support the Women’s Cancers Program of Dana-Farber/Partners
CancerCare. The money is going to establish the Gillette Centers
for Women’s Cancers, an adult oncology service. In May 1999, the
company introduced the Gillette Women’s Cancer Connection to help
families and friends with the issues brought on by cancer.
Through a partnership grant, Gillette is also helping Kids
Konnected, a national nonprofit organization, to offer support
for children who have a parent with cancer.
’These findings help reinforce that we have the right message
with Cancer Connection,’ says Gallagher. ’We’re very fortunate in
being able to embrace a cause that resonates with our employees
and the outside world. The last thing we want is to be accused of
embracing a cause that doesn’t have meaning for us.’
Self-serving but beneficial
And even if a company pursues cause marketing strictly for the PR
value it brings, that’s not entirely bad, says one expert. Dr. Ed
Maibach, director of social marketing for Porter Novelli, argues
that companies whose motives are self-serving shouldn’t be
criticized for their cause initiatives.
’A company is thought about as more favorable if, in making good
on their motivation for having a good reputation, they benefit a
social issue and the world is left a better place,’ says Maibach.
’An organization’s reasons may be self-serving, but that’s not to
say that they’re not making a difference through their
While the survey results may not be a reason for corporations
with cause initiatives to switch gears and throw all their money
at the teen market, it does indicate that Generation Y is as
concerned as adults are about causes.
And it gives those that haven’t been involved in cause marketing
something to consider.