Survey: 'Good Is the New Black'

Consumers in Cone Study Say They Won't Buy Your Products If They Don't Like Your Practices

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If you don't stand for a cause, consumers may stop buying your products.
Carol Cone, chairman-CEO of Cone, said 72% of employees wish their bosses would push for social issues to be part of the companys' business plans -- a 38% increase since Cone's last survey in 2004.
Carol Cone, chairman-CEO of Cone, said 72% of employees wish their bosses would push for social issues to be part of the companys' business plans -- a 38% increase since Cone's last survey in 2004.

That's according to the 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey, which finds that fully two-thirds of Americans consider a company's business practices when deciding what to buy. It also found that 87% of U.S. consumers would switch from one brand to another if the other brand was associated with a good cause, up 31% since 1993. According to Cone, 92% of consumers value companies that promote social issues, and 83% say companies have a responsibility to help support them.

"[Consumers] want to be affiliated with a company that is good," said Carol Cone, chairman-CEO of Cone, a Boston-based strategy and communications agency that specializes in cause marketing. "If consumers see companies behave badly, consumers can move to a company that is a neutral corporate citizen or a proactive corporate citizen."

Social issues
Cone also said 72% of employees wish their bosses would push for social issues to be part of the companys' business plans -- a 38% increase since Cone's last survey in 2004.

The agency warned, however, about what Ms. Cone calls the "ribbonization of America" -- slapping ribbons or causes on products only to end up losing their meaning. "You'll see it in women's magazines in the October issues -- there'll be four- to eight-page spreads on breast-cancer awareness. They'll all cancel each other out," she said. "You'll feel good for the moment, but will it be an ultimate brand lift? Probably not."

So how can companies spread their messages? Integrated marketing is key. Not only will it surround the brand and its cause, Ms. Cone said, it will ultimately be more memorable. "Print can do it in one way, and broadcast can do it in another, and you've got to have online there as well," Ms. Cone said. "One medium can't do it."

Leading concern: health
Green may be the movement to gravitate towards, but it still ranks second to Americans' leading concern: health. With the environment becoming a hot-button issue this year, however, Ms. Cone said companies should look at protecting the environment as part of their business practices, along with diversity in the workplace.

No matter what cause a company stands behind, Ms. Cone maintains it's one thing that will never go out of style with consumers. "Good is the new black today," she said.
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