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.
While cause marketing won't work with all customer segments, research suggests that there is a segment of socially-conscious consumers who cause marketers ought to pay attention to. But who are they? 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 marketers better understand the right audience for cause marketing activities, 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.
One of the challenges of cause marketing is effectively reaching the socially-conscious consumer. In order for a customer to behave differently based on a brand’s social and environmental investments, they must first be aware of them.
In cause marketing efforts, basic trust in chosen advertising vehicle may be even more important than advertising at large. Consumers have grown increasingly sensitive to “greenwashing,” the idea that a brand will artificially inflate its environmental or even social investments for consumers.
When it comes to advertising and recommendations, socially-conscious consumers trust recommendations from people they know (95%), while also looking for opinions and information posted by other consumers online (76%), slightly more so than the global online survey average (92% and 70%, respectively). Among paid, third-party advertising channels, socially-conscious consumers most trust outdoor, TV and print media, though they tend to be more trusting of advertising across channels.
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 which appeals to the right consumers, with the right causes and through the right marketing channels. This report provides just one new layer of insight in the exploration of the socially-conscious consumer.
For marketers, this report provides guideposts to better understand your customers’ social consciousness in order to refine your cause marketing efforts and create more shared value for your brand and society. For cause organizations, this report presents the opportunity to further make the case that consumers will reward partnering brands for implementing programs to give back to society.
For Nielsen, the continued exploration of this topic is a responsibility we take seriously: to our global clients and to our communities, who should mutually benefit from a better understanding of the socially-conscious consumer.