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Consumers Continue to Stand by Their Causes During Downturn

Survey Says People Will Still Pay More if They Support Brand's Beliefs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Consumers are still giving -- even though it hurts.

Some 71% of consumers globally said despite the recession they have given just as much -- or more -- time and money to causes they deem worthy, according to the second-annual Edelman Goodpurpose study. More than half of the 6,000 consumers surveyed said even in the throes of a recession they would be prepared to pay more for a brand if it supported a good cause. And more than two-thirds said they would be willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.

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The survey was conducted from August through October in 10 countries: the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, India, China and Japan.

Mitch Markson, president-consumer brands and global creative director at Edelman, said the study shows an interesting balance of what matters most to consumers during tough financial times and that, regardless of all the belt-tightening consumers and marketers have been forced to do, consumers are standing by their causes and expect the same from marketers.

"On one hand, [there are] all the realities of the recession and people wanting more value [for their money]," he said in the agency's New York office. "But on the other side, they also want more values in a different way."

"They are going to hold businesses accountable for continuing to support good causes like they have in the past," said Laurence Evans, president of Edelman's StrategyOne division.

Making it known
The survey also found that even marketers who are deeply entrenched in cause marketing are not doing enough to let consumers know about it. Only 40% of global consumers said they are aware of any company that actively supports a good cause, while only 33% said they are aware of a brand that actively supports a good cause, down from 39% last year.

On a global level, 80% of consumers said it's important even during a recession for brands and companies to set aside money for social purposes, while 68% said they would remain loyal to a brand in a recession if it supported a good cause. Three-quarters said they like to buy from brands that donate to worthy causes.

Edelman went back and posed recession-specific questions to U.S. consumers as the economic situation worsened. Overall, it found that during this economic slide, brands associated with good causes are highly likely to influence purchase behavior and favorable word-of-mouth. U.S. consumers were twice as likely to find it "very appropriate" for a brand to use its marketing dollars to fund social causes (35%) vs. entertaining campaigns (16%) or brand sponsorships (15%).

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The study found that 58% of U.S. consumers are positively influenced by information on a brand's donations or charitable contributions vs. 47% who said they are influenced by information about new-product features. And nearly eight in 10 U.S. consumers who report high anxiety regarding finances said they would switch to a brand that supports good causes.

Support from women
Globally, 58% of consumers said it is fine for marketers to make money while supporting a good cause. When choosing between two products of similar quality and price, global consumers are more inclined to have their purchase decision influenced by a brand's social purpose (42%) than innovation (30%) or brand loyalty (27%).

The study also found that women (82%) are more likely than men (78%) to agree that "during a recession it is still important for brands and companies to set aside money for a good cause or purpose" and that "if a company has to cut its costs during a recession, it should not stop giving to good causes" (75% vs. 70%).

When asked to name a brand they associated with a good cause, people most often mentioned Yoplait, Coke, Campbell's Soup, Newman's Own and Dove.
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