New study from DoSomething Strategic reveals disconnect between brands and their support of social causes in the minds of younger consumers. Savage x Fenty, Dove, and Love Beauty and Planet receive among the highest association between brand and cause.
Despite an influx of consumer brands more publicly supporting social cause platforms, most efforts are not resonating with Gen Z, according to a new study released Wednesday from DoSomething Strategic, the social impact consulting arm of DoSomething.org that helps brands engage young people around their purpose.
Cause is Working, Your Marketing Isn't: A Report on Brands Taking Stands 2019 found that 66 percent of young consumers say that a brand's association with a social cause or platform positively impacts their overall impression of the brand, and 58 percent say this association will impact their likelihood of purchasing that brand. However, across the 88 brands tested, an average of just 12 percent of respondents had "top of mind" associations between brands they were familiar with and a social cause or platform. Even when provided a list of social causes or platforms (aka "aided awareness"), cause association still only reached an average of 24 percent.
The survey was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of 1,908 current DoSomething.org members ages 13-25, about their awareness of 88 consumer brands' support of social causes, issues and platforms.
"This study highlights critical factors marketers today should consider when trying to reach a younger consumer," said Meredith Ferguson, Managing Director of DoSomething Strategic. "Primarily, that you need to shout loud and proud about your support of social issues and cause platforms to break through the noise. Too few young consumers are aware of brands' support of various cause initiatives, and there is a real risk brands aren't getting the 'credit' for the good work they're doing. It is a missed opportunity to build a relationship with consumers based on shared values."
The report also finds that brands can't ride on their history of cause marketing or expect it will be known to a new generation. Even when young people feel they are familiar with a brand, it's no guarantee that their understanding of that brand extends beyond the brand's products. Though a brand’s purpose-driven ethos matters, it’s not easy to break through and create belief among consumers. For example, Nike earned significant media attention in 2018 with its Colin Kaepernick campaign that showed support for his protest movement against racism and social injustice — 4C Insights data showed that mentions of and comments about Nike on social media rose 1,678 percent immediately following the campaign launch; and mentions of Kaepernick spiked 362,280 percent. And yet, in the DoSomething Strategic survey, Nike still only secured a 60 percent aided awareness of an association with any cause at all; and only 27 percent with racial justice.
The study pointed out a few methods that are giving brands an edge when it comes to strengthening their connection to social cause initiatives among young people:
"Gen Z defines 'authenticity' differently than older generations," Ferguson said. "To them, there is no such thing as a cause that is off-limits for a brand to champion — it doesn't have to be in lock-step with what a brand sells. So long as the brand is walking the walk and supporting the issue from the inside out, they're game."
This article was previously published on Sustainable Brands and is reproduced with permission.