Cause Marketing: Giving Back Pays Dividends

Company A is selling a product. Company B is selling a product and donating 25% of your purchase to the Haiti relief fund. Company A is selling some tasty coffee. Company B is selling equally delicious brew that is 100% fair trade organically grown. Which one do you buy assuming all other factors to be identical?

I don’t know about you – but I’d say ‘Company B’ in both of the examples above. Why? Because, beyond making a purchase that satisfies my needs, I’m doing something good for someone else. Even if it’s indirect, we (collectively) feel good about doing good.

Tapping into the “feel good” philosophy

Over the past few years, the idea of ‘Cause Marketing’ has really been on the upswing. And it’s extremely fascinating to me because, amongst a younger consumer demographic who already has very little expendable income, during a recession, we are still willing to pay a bit of a premium and go with ‘Company B’ if we’re supporting a good cause – if we’re supporting the added ‘community’ bottom line.

Lauren Fernandez wrote a great piece about Cause Marketing a few months ago in which she cites the Edelman 2009 Goodpurpose(TM) Consumer Study. The study presents some pretty incredible statistics that paints a clear picture of the buying habits related to cause marketing:

  • 83 percent of people are willing to change consumption habits if it can help make the world a better place to live.
  • More than twice as many people (67 percent) would rather drive a hybrid car than a luxury car (33 percent).
  • Considerably more people (70 percent) would prefer to live in an eco-friendly house than merely a big house (30 percent).
  • 64% would recommend a brand that supports a good cause – up from 52% last year globally.
  • 59% would help a brand promote its products if there was a good cause behind it – up from 53% last year.
  • 44% are aware of brands that actively support good causes through their products and services – up from 33% last year.

“People all over the world are now wearing, driving, eating, and living their social purpose as sustained engagement with good causes becomes a new criterion for social status and good social behavior,” said Mitch Markson, Edelman’s chief creative officer, president of its brand consulting group and founder of goodpurpose. “This gives companies and brands associated with a worthy cause an opportunity to build long-term relationships with consumers that, in turn, allow them to feel valuable within their communities.”

Giving back gives back

It’s clear in today’s economy that there are considerable more profits and earning to be had by those companies who are genuinely giving back and proving that they care about more than JUST their own bottom line.

Note that I used the word ‘genuine’ – this is key. Any and every company can tell you they’re making a donation to the “Human Fund” ala George Costanza. And with the rise of ’cause marketing’ there are going to be plenty of companies who try to burn a hole in your wallet by convincing you they’re doing good, even when it may not be true.

But for those businesses and organizations out there who have a clearly defined ‘social purpose’ (MANY companies are bringing on an in-house sustainability and social-cause crew) – there is a lot of success to be had and money to be made. If you’re business feels good about what they’re doing to ‘make the world a better place’ – that will almost always translate over to the consumer.

In my mind, if you’re a running a company out there who isn’t giving back, you need to jump on the wagon like, yesterday.

  • Where do you see ‘Cause Marketing’ trending in the future?
  • Would you pay more for a product or service if you knew they were supporting a good cause?
  • How can companies use cause marketing to effectively target Gen Y?

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