Associating a product or brand with a good cause that resonates with a target audience is a tried and tested method of boosting sales. Cause related marketing is a growth area, and one that is poised to change dramatically, a process being driven by the internet.
In order to help companies maximize the effectiveness of their programs in this area, Ketchum, in partnership with BlogHer, the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online, and Nielsen Company, to undertake research in Hong Kong to better understand how to select a cause that will intrinsically touch peoples’ lives; what consumers do versus what they say they will do; the role of influencers and how to engage the right influencers in a way that’s good for the business as well as for the cause.
“This research is significant because it contrasts what consumers actually do versus what they say they would do in reaction to a hypothetical cause marketing situation,” said Simeon Mellalieu, general manager, Ketchum Hong Kong. “In many instances, it appears cause programs have a far greater affect on brand affinity, reputation and share of voice than on sales. But, the research also reveals the keys to turn talk into action.”
People in Hong Kong claim they are more likely to purchase a product if the brand supports a cause, and 40% have “liked” a brand or posted on Facebook for supporting a cause. But only one-in-three actually put their money where their good intentions are by switching brands, paying more or purchasing more.
Personal and local cause support critical to short-term sales
The study finds people are willing to change purchase behavior if the cause aligns with their “personal passions” and impacts themselves, their community or someone close to them. In Hong Kong, people are most passionate about causes that provide economic support for the poor (41%), children’s causes (36%) and the environment (32%).
While 40% of respondents said they have supported a company in the past when it makes a donation to a local or international cause, 33% are willing to purchase more of a product because of the cause it supports and 28% are prepared to pay more for a product. People want cause support to be simple and easy: 40% are most receptive to programs where companies donate a portion of sales to a cause and 42% want companies to make a donation if they “like” them on Facebook. Only a quarter of respondents were prepared to purchase a product like a t-shirt to support a cause and a fifth said they would participate in a fundraising event.
Young adults are the cause trendsetters
Targeting the most passionate audience and leveraging online influencers are also essential for success. Companies interested in cause marketing benefit most from targeting young adults age 18-27, according to the study. 30% of young adults said they would change brands to support a cause that was important to them, more than any other age group. While 22% of all respondents would tell a friend or family member about a brand that was supporting a cause, 41% of young adults were likely to do so.
Social media is also shown to be an important viral mechanism for spreading cause support through word of mouth. Whilst only 16% of Hongkongers have written, blogged or tweeted about a brand supporting a cause and urged readers to make a purchase, 33% have forwarded an email or e-card to support a cause and 40% have learned about cause support through a social media platform.
Mellalieu concluded, “The research is important as it sets benchmarks for what can actually be achieved through cause related marketing in Hong Kong and the best ways to go about it. What stands out is clearly how switched on to social media people are in Hong Kong and the fact that a simple sales-based donation will enhance both reputation and sales more effectively than complex events and special product design. Respondents in Hong Kong repeatedly cited international brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, as well as local brands such as Wong Lo Kat, in implementing successful and memorable donation campaigns that resulted in increased visitation and sales. As senior marketing executives spend more of their budgets on purpose-driven marketing, insights such as this are invaluable in achieving true consumer engagement for a brand.”
About the Survey
The BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters Study co-sponsored by Ketchum was fielded by BlogHer, the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online, and Nielsen Company, in the US, Brazil, Germany and Hong Kong. 387 people over the age of 18 in Hong Kong were polled in an online survey in March 2011.