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Don’t just show consumers charity: show them your conscience


In his last article, marketing consultant Steven Howard argued that businesses must invest with a social purpose to win back the trust of consumers. Here, he continues his analysis of a recent worldwide survey on consumer preferences.

In my previous post, I referred to the Edelman goodpurpose™ Consumer Study of 6,000 people in 10 countries, which revealed that 83% of consumers are willing to change their own consumption habits to help make tomorrow’s world a better place.

The Edelman study also revealed that 70% of consumers felt their ability to make monetary financial contributions to community causes had been limited or reduced by the global recession; many had instead given more time in support of good causes because they had not been able to contribute as much financially as in the past.

I draw another conclusion from these results. It appears to me that consumers are also attempting to make indirect financial contributions to the charities and causes they support through the brands and products they purchase.

Preserving Brand Loyalty

Someone who has not been able to make their annual donation to the annual Breast Cancer fund drive (for instance) is highly likely to start purchasing products that support Breast Cancer research and which are adorned with the Pink Ribbon support label on their packaging.

This way, they can still feel like they are making some financial contribution to their preferred causes, even when their current financial situation has prevented them from their more generous and direct contributions. The challenge for marketers is how to maintain loyalty from these new purchasers, even when they revert to their generous charitable contributions once the economy rebounds and personal situations improve.

One way to do so is to be authentic in how your organisation approaches its social contributions. While the Edelman survey clearly reveals that social purpose has become increasingly important to a brand’s success, the report findings also state, “a brand purpose must be authentic and true to the core values of the brand itself and brands must look beyond traditional corporate social responsibility programs in which they simply donate money to a good cause.”

Good causes are integral – from the top down

As the survey notes, 66% of the respondents in these 10 countries no longer believe it is good enough for corporations and brands to merely give money away to charitable causes.

The belief now is that, to be authentic, corporations and brands must truly integrate good causes into their day-to-day business activities, as well as into their internal processes and procedures.

This takes the concept of ‘Engagement Marketing’ to a new level.

The bottom line for the Era of Responsibility: every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that our children inherit a better world. And if you want to benefit from your efforts, you had best ensure that they are authentic and truly integrated into your operations and marketing messages.

Steven Howard is a Melbourne-based marketing consultant, author, professional business writer, and Non-Executive Director in both the profit and non-profit fields. He is also Chief Strategist at Howard Marketing Services (www.howard-marketing.com).