Survey: Cause Marketing’s Unintended Consequences
A study of 300 college students by a professor at the University
of Michigan shows that cause related marketing programs had the effect of reducing
the amount of money these consumers gave to charity.
"Consumers may think of the firm’s donation as theirs since it is facilitated
by their act — in fact, this type of thinking is ‘rational’ since it allows
consumers to spend less to meet their donation goals," said Aradhna Krishna,
the Dwight F. Benton professor of marketing at UM. "This suggests that
even if cause-marketing purchases are costless, consumers think of their purchase
as a charitable act and decrease subsequent acts. The higher the cause-marketing
expenditure, the lower was the individual charitable giving."
programs also seem to leave consumers less happy with their charitable giving.
"Consumers appear to realize that participating in cause marketing is
inherently more selfish than direct charitable donation, reducing their subsequent
happiness (versus a direct donation)," said Prof. Krishna. "Unfortunately,
this doesn’t prevent them from substituting it for charitable giving, which
reduces the overall charitable donation."
While Prof. Krishna’s research
provides some evidence of unintended consequences, cause related programs continue
to be popular with marketers and consumers.
According to Cone’s 2010
Cause Evolution Study:
- Eighty-three percent of consumers want more of what they buy to benefit
- Eighty-five percent have a more positive view of companies engaged in cause
related marketing efforts;
- Eighty percent are likely to switch brands assuming all other attributes
- Cause Marketing Lowers Charitable Donations – Stephen M. Ross School
Cause Evolution Study (download) – Cone
Discussion Questions: Are cause marketing programs still as effective as in the past or has the sheer number of these programs reduced their effectiveness? Should the research by Aradhna Krishna raise any red flags for marketers?