A new survey reports that over two-thirds of consumers “would remain loyal to a brand during a recession if it supports a good cause”. Why wouldn’t they say so? And so what? Let’s try a little rebelliousness here.
The study was released by “goodpurpose“, a consultancy at Edelman, the big PR firm. The only surprise is that nearly a third of consumers said something different. Only brave people declare themselves as uncaring when asked a motherhood-and-pie question.
Obviously, there is something to be said for people’s and firms’ good intentions coming together to get something worthwhile done.
The fact is that firms are also quite right and virtuous when they cater to what people really want (never mind what they say they want). The high-price, feel-good offer may not be all that meritorious. For starters, it excludes the poor and may not be as angelic as it claims.
Surely there is a competitive advantage to be had from the firm that says we offer a no-frills approach that leaves the cash in your pockets to do what good you think needs doing. In a recession such a promise has appeal. Given that banks and others have failed at their day job, is not the most important contribution business can make to the good of society the proper management of their fundamentals?
Moreover, are firms really the best bodies for promoting good causes? Are they the most efficient managers for overseeing environmental, community or other initiatives outside of their core expertise?
One could argue that by taking on such responsibilities on behalf of consumers firms are encouraging passivity on the part of their customers. Wouldn’t it be better if customers were active and independent when it comes to contributing to the greater good and good works? Active good work is really good, passivity is less so, surely?
The other issue is how can we be sure that firms are really doing the good they claim? Carbon offsets, for instance, have questionable value.
My point is not that good cause marketing is wrong or bad PR. It is just that this is a complicated issue. It is not as straightforward as Edelman would have us believe. The subject needs a wide airing so that firms offer customers real choice that appeals to their core stakeholders.
Lastly, it is time we went beyond being surprised by motherhood-and-pie opinions revealed by surveys. Oh, and isn’t there something rather bossy about all this? I find it brings out the bolshy in me.