Insights for Companies from a Millennial in the Marketing Industry

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Millennials and Cause Marketing

            One of the major trends listed in’s 2010 Trend Report is a focus on generosity among consumers, fueled by the recession, consumers looking for companies that care, and generosity becoming a status symbol. The recession is creating a lack of trust in companies: “the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 62% of adults in 20 countries trusted corporations less in December 2008 than they had a year earlier.” (’s 2010 Trend Report) Furthermore, “Edelman's third annual Goodpurpose study found 61% of consumers worldwide have purchased a brand that supports a good cause even if it wasn't the cheapest brand.” (PR Week US) Now is the perfect time to achieve success through cause marketing.
Does this trend apply to millennials? You bet it does…even more than it applies to other generations. One needs only to look at the widespread success of sweatshop-free and socially responsible clothing companies such as American Apparel to confirm this. The 2006 Cone Millennial Cause Study (Cause Marketing Forum) used an online survey to capture the opinions, perceptions and beliefs of 1800 respondents in the USA. It was the first in-depth study of its kind, and has brought about some hard-hitting implications for cause marketing to millennials.
Some of the findings from the study that I find most interesting and relevant are summarized here:
·      “78% of Millennials believes it is their responsibility to make the world a better place, and companies have a responsibility to join them in this effort.
·      83% will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible.
·      74% are more likely to pay attention to a company’s message when they see that the company has a deep commitment to a cause.
·      89% are likely or very likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being equal) if the second brand is associated with a good cause.
·      69% consider a company’s social/environmental commitment when deciding where to shop.
·      66% will consider a company’s social/environmental commitment when deciding whether to recommend its products and services.
·      Millennials say they are prepared to reward or punish a company based on its commitment to social causes.”
            What are implications of these statistics on how to successfully market to millennials? Position your company as socially and environmentally responsible to gain trust from Millennials. This isn’t optional so much as a fundamental requirement if you want to stay current in today’s society, according to’s 2010 Trend Report. Involve commitment to a cause in your advertising to get them to pay more attention to your messaging. Associate your brand with a good cause to make 89% of Millennials (huge!) likely to switch to your brand. Finally, sell your products at retailers that are committed to social and environmental issues.
Another interesting finding is that “Millennials who actively volunteer are even more responsive to Cause Branding than their less engaged counterparts….87% of Millennials who volunteer weekly have purchased a product that supports a cause in the past year; that number drops to 48% for non-volunteers. 20% of Millennials volunteer weekly and are a company’s most loyal brand ambassadors.” Thus, it may be most effective to target Millennials that volunteer as consumers, as they will likely recommend the product to others if it supports a cause they care about, and could make great employees for the company.
            The Cone Millennial Cause Study also asked Millennials about their expectations of employers. The findings have implications on what sort of marketing to use to attract millennials to come work for your organization, and as we know, having millennials in your organization to contribute to the execution of marketing campaigns aimed at millennials is critical for success. Here are some of the findings from the 28% of respondents that described themselves as full-time employees.
·      “79% want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.
·      69 % are aware of their employer’s commitment to social/environmental causes.
·      64% say their company’s social/environmental activities make them feel loyal to that company.
·      56% would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.
·      Survey findings indicate that volunteerism unleashes a more engaged citizen, consumer and employee”
It is obvious that in order to attract and retain millennial employees, companies must engage in corporate social responsibility. Some companies are already using the generosity trend to attract millennials to work for their companies: “Millennial-friendly benefits Loblaw provides include a cheque for $500 to a charity to which an employee devotes more than 40 hours of service a year.” (Vancouver Sun)
How about some recommendations for how to execute cause marketing most effectively to target millennials?
1. Be long-lasting. Don’t just choose a new charity to support each month, as it will become evident that you are simply using cause marketing as a ploy. To really create trust and loyalty among consumers, choose a cause that is related to your product or service and has meaning to your customers. Then stick with it.
2. For goodness sake, don’t be fake. The only thing worse than no CSR is fake CSR. If you’re touting your product as ‘green’ when really it has a host of other detrimental effects to the environment, the loss of trust after being found out will be way greater than any trust or incremental sales you may have gained in the process.
3. Focus your advertising efforts outside the store. While until as late as 2007, 60 percent of shoppers made their decisions at home and 40 percent in the store…in July of this year, 83 percent of shoppers stated that they are making their purchase decisions at home, an astounding 23 point increase. In addition, 64 percent of shoppers now make a list prior to visiting a store.” (Reuters)
4. A few tips from Mrs. Cone from the Cone Millennial Cause Study “To be truly effective, corporations should use cause branding as a loyalty strategy,” noted Ms. Cone. “They need to align their brand with a cause that is relevant, authentic, sustainable and engaging, as well as one that is true to the core brand identity. Most importantly, companies cannot be afraid to communicate their cause commitments with honesty and sincerity. Millennials want to know how their support of a specific brand or product is actually making a difference.” Taking this apart piece by piece, make sure that the cause you choose is the right one, be up front about your commitment to the cause, and show what contribution your company or the donation promotion is actually making to the cause you have chosen.
Try it at home:
-Create a campaign that involves something along the lines of “with every product purchased, $___ will go to . The incremental lift in sales you will see from this promotion will surely outweigh the expenditure required to keep this commitment.
-Take a hint from Target and use your Facebook Fan page to find out which cause your customers would most like your organization to support. Target created a fan page and asked fans to vote which charities Target’s weekly donations should go to. The result was 97K new ‘fans’ of the page, a 3000% increase in wall post activity, and a 4800% increase in daily page views. See this page for more information.
-Encourage more people to join your Facebook Fan page through offering to donate $___ to a certain cause for every new fan that joins. I’ve seen many examples of companies doing this with great success…don’t forget to specify a limit on the amount you will donate, because you are sure to get a lot of fans by doing this!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome blog post - so relevant.
    I have definitely seen an increase in companies going the for-a-cause route to reach students and campuses!