Although the majority of Americans (96%) say they can identify two to three causes that are important to them personally, the recent 2011 MSLGROUP Social Purpose Index found that only thirty-seven percent of Americans have actually purchased a product associated with a cause in the past year. The gap between socially-conscious consumers' and their actual cause-related purchase decisions can be explained through heightened skepticism in the marketplace today. This skepticism is a result of many companies supporting causes that don't necessarily make sense for their business or their brands. Seventy-four percent of Americans agree that there is often too much of a disconnect between the causes companies support and the brands and products they sell (74%), while nearly as many (67%) feel that companies only support causes to sell products.
"These findings suggest that simply tying a cause to your product to get consumers to purchase is no longer enough, despite what others are telling you," said Scott Beaudoin, SVP, North America Director of Cause Marketing and CSR at MSLGROUP, one of the world's top five global PR and events agencies. "In order to connect with consumers in an authentic and meaningful way, companies need to elevate beyond purpose-driven table stakes and better align their core competencies with societal needs in order to fuel greater participation and profits."
Consumers Want Authenticity above All
Results of the 2011 MSLGROUP Social Purpose Index show that consumers are willing to support causes that aren't necessarily the causes they care most about. In fact, more than half (55%) of Americans surveyed gave their time and/or money in the past year to support hunger, yet only twenty-two percent ranked hunger among the top three causes they view as most important. These gaps between the issues consumers rank most important and those they actually support also appeared among the issues of poverty and homelessness.
"This latest data shows us that what is most important is not that companies merely create cause programs to support the causes their consumers care most about, but that companies are strategically aligning with relevant, real causes that fit within their brands' greater purpose and make the most sense in conjunction with their products and services," added Anne Erhard, SVP, Account Director in the Cause Marketing and CSR group.
MSLGROUP Commits to Helping Clients Connect Cause to Brand Purpose
As more and more brands around the globe define and/or redefine their purpose and seek to leverage that purpose to market products and provide services that benefit their customers, MSLGROUP is organizing their offering to help clients amplify their soul, as well as their sales. The agency is launching a new group focused on broad global purpose-inspired marketing, within which cause-marketing and corporate social responsibility will remain important and effective strategies. The new group, Beyond Purpose, led by Scott Beaudoin, will focus on:
- Finding the intersection between people's passions and beliefs and a brands' purpose and benefits to drive sales and "soul"
- Uncovering human and societal insights into universal truths, motivations and tensions where products and services can "play to win"
- Shifting brands' mindset from marketing to serving
- Unlocking ideas that make products and services relevant and impactful in bettering people's lives
- Igniting consumer and employee participation so that people become brand advocates
"As more and more brands are communicating their purpose through every stakeholder engagement, this offers a huge opportunity to seamlessly connect to social issues in ways that consumers will understand and reward," adds Scott Beaudoin.