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Consumers Spend on Brands with Social Purpose - and Encourage Others Too

Written by Peter L. Mosca on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 6:00 pm
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Are you in the business of building homes or building better communities? Do you offer more than a "great" buy? Does your product help or hinder the environment? According to the third annual Edelman goodpurposeTM Consumer Study your answer to these questions may just affect your future sustainability as a real estate builder, developer, contractor, remodeler, etc. The survey found that despite the recession, consumers are still spending with companies and brands that have a social purpose. New findings released from the survey of 6,000 people in 10 countries, revealed that during this recession, 57 percent globally say a company or brand has earned their business because it has been doing its part to support good causes.

"People all over the world are now wearing, driving, eating, and living their social purpose as sustained engagement with good causes becomes a new criterion for social status and good social behavior," said Mitch Markson, Edelman's chief creative officer, president of its brand consulting group and founder of goodpurpose. "This gives companies and brands associated with a worthy cause an opportunity to build long-term relationships with consumers that, in turn, allow them to feel valuable within their communities."

The study also found that 83 percent of people are willing to change consumption habits if it can help make the world a better place to live, indicating a startling consumer shift and trend away from traditional status markers like big houses and luxury cars and toward identification with social purpose brands. Considerably more people (70 percent) would prefer to live in an eco-friendly house than merely a big house (30 percent), and 68 percent also now feel that it's becoming more unacceptable not to make noticeable efforts to show concern for the environment and live a healthy lifestyle, with an overwhelmingly 80 percent preferring to support the livelihood of local producers.

"People are demanding social purpose, and brands are recognizing it as an area where they can differentiate themselves and in many parts of the world, not only meet governmental compliance requirements, but also build brand equity," said Markson. "This year's study shows that if companies respond intelligently to the sea change in consumer attitudes, brand loyalty among consumers - even during seriously challenging economic times - will actually grow. Even better, consumers will want to share their support for these brands with others."

While the study reveals that social purpose is becoming increasingly crucial to a brand's success, a brand purpose must be authentic and true to the core values of the brand itself, and brands must look beyond traditional corporate social responsibility programs in which they simply donate money to a good cause. As the study notes, 66 percent of people believe that it's no longer enough for corporations to merely give money away, but that they must integrate good causes into their day-to-day business.

"Companies that become catalysts for social change and respond to rising consumer expectations that they and their brands help make the world a better place will not only survive, but also thrive, in ways their competitors will not," said Markson. "Mutual social responsibility provides that opportunity, as people today are more passionately involved and supportive than ever, yet more demanding and unforgiving, as well." These numbers would indicate those real estate builders, developers, contractors, remodelers and others who want to survive in this economy and those in the future would be wise to adhere to the behaviors of consumers who want social change and environmental awareness.

[Editor's Note: The 2009 goodpurposeTM survey was fielded among consumers ages 18-64 across ten countries from July to August 2009. Visit www.edelman.com for more information.]

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