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Place Through Cause Marketing

Posted At: November 18, 2009 1:08 PM
by Jaclyn White

In today’s economy, people are tightening the purse strings and buying the most inexpensive products possible: it’s every man for himself, right? Surprisingly, this is not necessarily true.

Edelman, one of the world’s leading independent public relations firms, has again sponsored the annual goodpurposestudy. This study samples more than 6,000 people ages 18-64 from around the globe about consumer habits and thoughts. One interesting statistic from the study: 61 percent have purchased a brand that supports a good cause even if it wasn’t the cheapest brand.

The study uncovered many other interesting facts, such as 83 percent of those surveyed are willing to change consumption habits if it can make the world a better place to live. In a related matter, 63 percent are looking to brands and companies to make it easier for them to make a difference.

So what does this mean for companies today? When talking more in depth about the study, Mitch Markson, the CEO and president of Edelman goodpurpose, said that finding the right cause is very important. In order to really make cause marketing work, companies must “link the brand’s business purpose to an authentic higher social purpose and use consumer insights and research to understand what social purpose territories are right for your customers.” In other words, make sure that the purpose you are linking to your company is relatable and relevant to your customers.

Markson began the study three years ago in response to what he saw as a changing and evolving market. “I realized there was a shift in consumer values – a search for more meaning, desire to participate and personally make a difference on a variety of social issues – and recognized that brands were looking for new ways to differentiate in a more sustainable and meaningful way. As a professional working in branding and communications, I felt I could personally make a difference by using research, creativity and new channels of engagement to help brands connect more with consumers and do good at the same time.”

Companies need to look at what is now valuable to consumers. Although consumers may not be able to contribute as much financially as they could before the economic recession, they want to contribute in other ways. Having extravagant possessions is no longer a status symbol; it’s about making an effort to make the world a better place. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed would rather drive a hybrid car than a luxury car, and 70 percent would prefer to live in an eco-friendly house rather than a large house.

Companies all over the country and the world are picking up on this trend, and it means a changing focus for PR professionals. General Mills, one of the largest producers of consumer products in the U.S., places a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility. The majority of the focus of its corporate Web site is what General Mills is doing to help others, rather than on the actual products it offers.

General Mills even has a part of its company, Community Action, that is dedicated to addressing the needs of the community. It includes the General Mills Foundation, Brand Partnerships, Disaster Relief, Gift-Matching, International Giving, Hunger Relief, United Way and Volunteerism. General Mills says its goal is “to support innovative nonprofit organizations and programs that improve our headquarters and manufacturing communities, with a focus on youth nutrition and fitness, social services, education and arts and culture.”

A focus on social causes and responsibility is cropping up everywhere. The Corporate Responsibility Officer, a trade association for corporate responsibility professionals, is dedicated solely to highlighting and awarding good corporate responsibility practices. It recently published its list of “100 Best Corporate Citizens,” with Bristol Myers-Squibb, General Mills, IBM, Merk & Co. and HP making up the top five.

Cause marketing, which is seeing a recent increase in popularity, isn’t going anywhere, and it could mean good and different things for the PR world. “Before the global recession there was evidence we were moving in that direction. In the future, social purpose will become an established pillar of good brand behavior and good marketing in general,” said Markson.

In today’s competitive economy, having a cause is making or breaking the top companies. The focus in the PR world is subsequently changing as well, and there has never been a better time to educate oneself on social responsibility. Perhaps the PR industry can earn a little good PR for itself. It’s nice to focus on how companies are making the world a better place, rather than why their product is marginally better or why they really weren’t involved in “that” scandal.

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