Around the world, companies have invested time, talent, and treasure in social and environmental efforts for a range of complementary reasons. For many companies, cause marketing—the use of social and environmental efforts to build a brand and increase profits—has been a secondary if not primary motivation.
Cause marketing won’t work with all customer segments—some simply don’t care—but research suggests that there is a segment of socially conscious consumers that cause marketers should pay attention to. But who are these socially conscious consumers? What causes are most important to them? What’s the best way to reach them?
New findings from a Nielsen survey of more than 28,000 online respondents from 56 countries around the world provide fresh insights to help businesses better understand the right audience for cause marketers, which programs resonate most strongly with this audience, and what marketing methods may be most effective in reaching these consumers.
In the study, respondents were asked if they prefer to buy products and services from companies that implement programs that give back to society. Anticipating a positive response bias, respondents were also asked whether they would be willing to pay extra for those services. For the purposes of this study, Nielsen defines the “socially conscious consumer” as those who say they would be willing to pay the extra.
Two thirds (66%) of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society. That preference extends to other matters, too: they prefer to work for these companies (62%), and invest in these companies (59%). A smaller share, but still nearly half (46%) say they are willing to pay extra for products and services from these companies. These are the “socially conscious consumers,” as defined by and focused upon in this report.
There are innumerable worthy causes for brands to support, but effective cause marketing requires strategic prioritization. To maximize ROI on cause marketing efforts, companies need to identify the most relevant causes to their business. One component is the expectation consumers have of specific brands, but a more fundamental question is ‘which causes are most important to socially-conscious consumers?’
The survey results indicate that socially-conscious consumers care most about environmental sustainability. From a list of 18 causes that included the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as well as other prominent corporate social responsibility topics, 66 percent of socially conscious consumers identified environmental sustainability as a cause companies should support. This preference may be a byproduct of extensive efforts already underway by brands to “green” their portfolio and associate themselves with this cause.
Not all consumers expect companies to care about social responsibility, but those that do can be segmented and understood in ways that allow brands to engage in cause marketing that appeals to the right consumers, supports the right causes and engages the right marketing channels.
For more regional and country-level insights, download Nielsen’s Global Report on Corporate Citizenship.