Breaking Down the Latest Cause Marketing Research [Infographic]

Marketing research firm Toluna is out with new research on what consumers really think about cause marketing - which they nicely summarized in an infographic in Adweek.  

The research confirmed a lot of what I already thought was true about cause marketing, although one data point surprised me. I'm also becoming more skeptical of generational data. Are the boundaries between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials really as pronounced as researchers thing they are?

On this point, at least one person agrees with me: Brittany Hill, co-founder of Catalist, a matchmaking service for brands and nonprofits. We talked about this very issue last week and she made a good point, which I asked her to write out and email to me. Here it is:

"No longer can any of us (or our constituents) be grouped into a generational box. The lines have been blurred, stereotypes debunked and boundaries are gone. It's time to find out more about our constituents as individuals – who they are, how they think, where they shop and what causes they care about – in an effort to dismantle the generational silos and better customize our profit/purpose partnerships to ignite true change movements."

Consumers Support Cause Marketing

Assuming that people view the chosen cause favorably, a full 70% of respondents think a brand supporting a cause is a great thing. This highlights the importance of choosing an uncontroversial cause that doesn't ruffle consumers' feathers. This certainly explains why most brands generally choose established, reputable causes that positively resonate with consumers. 

Brands Need to Have Skin in the Game

With 53% of respondents saying that brands should donate a portion of their revenue to charity, it's no longer acceptable for brands to focus on programs that only target OPM ("other people's money").

Brands need to show stakeholders that they are as vested in causes as deeply as they are asking consumers and employees to support them.

Are Millennials Really Willing to Sacrifice on Quality?

I was surprised that 30% of Millennials said they were willing to sacrifice on the quality of a product so long as it benefited a cause. That number strikes me as high, as most of the anecdotal evidence I've seen suggests that brands have to lead with quality or cause products won't sell.

It no doubt depends on the product (or service).

I'm reminded of Ali Hewson's comments to the Wall Street Journal about her fashion line Edun, which aimed to spur manufacturing in Africa, struggled despite its cause focus and support from husband and U2 frontman Bono.

"We focused too much on the mission in the beginning. It's the clothes, it's the product. It's a fashion company. That needs to be first and foremost."

Maybe Millennials would care more about the quality product if they were buying a $400 shirt.