Your company needs to get on the cause train, before it exits the station
The Naked Truth
It can be tempting to sneer at the youthful exuberance of optimism as a cyclical fad — a generational coming-of-age. But not only will today’s youth imminently be wealthier than any previous generation, they are also plugged directly in to the internet and the 24 hour transparency network that entails.
Whereas once upon a time mistakes could be hidden, and quietly forgotten like a high school love letter, today’s leaders face the difficult task of managing almost instantaneous public discovery. The few bastions of shrouded ‘safety’, are fast disappearing. In 2013, Garment factories. In 2015, the Police. By 2020, it is conceivable, and hopeful, that no company will ever again be able to cover up great injustices to community and the environment.
Proof is in the Pudding
Compelling research shows that with rising accountability and greater transparency, consumer behavior is starting to change.
Over half of respondents to a global survey on consumer behavior stated checking packaging before buying from a brand to ensure socially responsible behavior. An equivalent percentage reported having actively decided to pay more for brands that reflect their social values through the products and services they sell.
Put in the words of marketing research expert, Amy Fenton of Nielsen Research:
It’s no longer a question if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.
So why should companies care? There are more urgent matters at hand!
This is a fringe group of activists, without purchasing power…right? Wrong.
By taking a number of online estimates of discretionary consumer spending statistics and forecasts, from companies that are generally quite diligent with their numbers, it is easy to take an average and track the growth of this new consumer ‘cause-concerned’ demographic.
The results are enticing, to say the least: Yes, that’s 700 BILLION USD.
Yet, despite the huge market value of this ‘cause’ segment, companies are slow on the uptake. You may think that all you see these days is clever cause marketing campaigns, but the reality is that only 1% of total marketing spend is on cause marketing. This amid a clear preference of young consumers to abandon brands that don’t make an effort to communicate their cause-affiliated behavior.
You Can’t Fake it…Anymore
One of the most common complaints I hear is that of ‘Greenwashing’, the idea that companies use causes as an excuse to label themselves positively without actually creating any actual impact.
Whilst this has definitely been an occasional problem in the past, companies are eventually criticized publicly when they make insensitive or disingenuous cause marketing claims. As consumers have greater access to information, the ability for companies to fake it will eventually, like the secrecy of government organizations, fade away.
And while this is taking place, the companies that commit to positive action, and speak to those same consumers who demand social and environmental accountability, will reap the ultimate long-term reward:
Selling better products in a better world.