Cause Marketing and the Socially Conscious Consumer

Just this week, Whole Foods announced it will no longer be selling seafood caught from depleted waters or through ecologically damaging methods.  More companies are promoting their sustainable initiatives and benchmarking their triple bottom lines – social, economic and environmental impacts.  In the news, headlines are buzzing about companies and brands working hard to be socially responsible.  Social consciousness is on the minds of consumers and businesses.

Who are Socially Conscious Consumers?

NielsenWire released a report about The Global, Socially Conscious Consumer surveying 28,000 consumers from 56 countries.   According to the report, the demographic of the global socially conscious consumer is younger and green.


Based on those surveyed the socially conscious consumers believe that companies should support causes.   The top three causes:

(1)    Ensure environmental sustainability (66%)

(2)    Improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Training and Education (56%)

(3)    Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger (53%)


Consumers in America care about companies supporting causes.  According to Cone’s 2010 Cause Evolution Study (Source: Cause Marketing Forum):

–  83% of Americans wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support a cause.

–  80% of consumers are willing to switch from one brand to another brand that is about the same in price and quality, if the other brand is associated with a good cause. 

– 61% are willing to try a new brand or one they’ve never heard of if associated with a cause.

What is Cause Marketing?

There is no one clear cut explanation as to the definition of cause marketing.  The most to the point definition is from the Cause Marketing Forum: Cause Marketing encompasses a wide variety of commercial activity that aligns a company or brand with a cause to generate business and social benefits.

Examples of Cause Marketing

Whole Foods – Ensuring environmental sustainability

Whole Foods’ announcement of sourcing sustainable seafood is a perfect example of cause marketing.  By aligning the company with a cause, to help the environment by sourcing only sustainable seafood, they are helping the environment and generating business from the socially conscious consumer.


TOMS – One for One Movement

Every time someone purchases a pair of TOMS shoes they are in fact getting two pairs.  The company matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need.  TOMS partners with humanitarian and health organizations around the world to distribute TOMS shoes.

Levi’s + – Helping people in the world lacking access to clean water

Levi’s and have set up a partnership to help provide clean water to those who do not have access.  Levi’s also is committed to manufacturing Water<LessTM products which has saved millions of liters of water.

Cause Marketing is Gaining Momentum

Cause Marketing generates awareness of social and environmental issues.  It connects customers, employees, communities and stakeholders for the greater good.  According to 2010 Edelman goodpurpose®, 86% of consumers around the world believe that businesses need to place at least equal weight on societal interests as on business interests (Source:  Toms is a true example of a company that embraces a cause.  Their whole corporate culture focuses on helping those in need, and every consumer is part of the solution when they make a purchase.

Not any business can succeed in the area of cause marketing.  Effective cause marketing requires a lot of planning.  Businesses that are leaders in this area are not promoting a cause with the aim to manipulate or deceive consumers.  They are trusted by consumers, they listen to the feedback of all stakeholders and they want to continually improve their triple bottom line.

Image: Sustainability & The Triple Bottom Line


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