Most Cause Marketing Is Wallpaper

The recently released 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey, 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.

I don’t doubt that people answered the survey the way Cone reported it. What I do doubt is that even a majority of people could match up the brand to which they may be loyal with the cause or social issue the company is supporting. How many Chevy owners know what Chevy supports? How many Heinz Ketchup buyers know what Heinz supports? Toyota? Levi Strauss? Intel? Pfizer?

There are some companies that have successfully branded their causes. Ronald McDonald Houses come to mind. And Target has pretty successfully advertised its fund-raising for Tiger Woods’ foundation. If you can keep track of the companies raising money for the Komen Foundation and breast cancer research, my hat is off to you. And I’d bet a vast majority of Target customers are hard pressed to know what Woods does with the money.

The Cone survey also says: 92% of consumers value companies that promote social issues, and 83% say companies have a responsibility to help support them.

The Cone survey is directionally right. But all it really shows is that a large percentage of consumers say they want some vague awareness that a company they are supporting is, in turn, supporting something worthwhile besides the CEO’s boat payments….whatever it might be.

That leaves the bar pretty low for how most companies manage their cause-related marketing.

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