Cone: Consumers need to see impact of cause efforts

Consumers not only want corporations to embrace causes, they want to see the results of their individual purchases, according to a study from Cone Communications.

BOSTON: Although the number of socially conscious US consumers has jumped 170% since 1993, doubts about corporate impact persist, according to data from Cone Communications' Social Impact Study.

“From a marketing and PR perspective, executives are realizing that cause marketing is a way to resonate with consumers and have their brand stand out,” said Alison DaSilva, EVP for research and insights at Cone.

However, the marcomms agency found that consumers have an “insatiable” desire to not only purchase products benefitting a cause, but also to see the impact of their purchase.

Despite an abundance of cause initiatives, fewer than one in five consumers believe that companies have made significant positive impact on social or environmental issues, and only 25% believe their purchases substantially influence those issues, the study found. This ambiguity around perceived impact can raise a red flag for marketers because corporate efforts can potentially go unnoticed.

“Companies really want to set goals and try to make them tangible,” DaSilva said. “For example, for every lid redeemed and for every box top cut-out, it is going to be 10 cents towards a particular charity.”

One company that has jumped on the altruistic bandwagon is Target, which in June partnered with Feed – a global organization founded in 2006 by Lauren Bush Lauren that provides meals for hungry children and families through product sales. Through the alliance, the retailer has benefitted Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization. Every Feed item has a number on it, signifying the number of meals donated to families as a result of each purchase.

“Target's whole collection of Feed USA merchandise translates really visibly for the consumer in that if you purchase this, this is how many meals are going to be donated,” said DaSilva. “This shows the company is serious about their efforts; they are integrating it into the brand experience, and they are making the impact each purchase is going to have very clear.”

Social media is one communications channel that companies are using to engage consumers, helping them to understand campaigns and stay updated. While 51% of Americans say they use social media to engage companies about social and environmental issues, 27% say they do so to champion corporate efforts and initiatives. One in five consumers said they use social channels to share negative information about companies and issues, according to the study.

“[Cause marketing] is more than building awareness about a product or company; it is about true engagement and trying to build advocates and champions for your brand by sharing or doing something positive,” said DaSilva.

Ebiquity, formerly Echo Research, conducted the survey from February 7 to February 28, polling 1,720 US adults for Cone.

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