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Will Latter
Corporate Client Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

T: +44 (0) 3000 123 235
E: wlatter@cafonline.org

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Charities and companies alike realise that there is an opportunity to engage consumers in small acts of goodness – from fundraising buckets in stores to using tokens to vote for local charities. These are proven to be effective ways of engaging consumers with the act of giving whilst reinforcing a company’s brand credentials.

But is this enough anymore?

Increasing evidence suggests that consumers want to be more actively engaged with brands that have an ethical reputation and help them be part of a common social good. CAF’s UK Giving Report – the UK’s largest on-going survey into donor behaviour – shows us that people are becoming more selective when it comes to engaging with brands.

Using YouGov data, we identified in the report that over half of respondents (52%) think ethical reputation is important when choosing between brands.

These results are reinforced by the fact that respondents also value the opportunity to recycle (77%) and want to buy from brands that help a customer understand their environmental footprint (62%).

On the other hand, 47% say it is important for brands to enable them to give to charity and just 40% said they saw importance in being offered a say in the charitable causes the brand supports.

We also see this change to the status quo in the continued decline in some of the charitable campaign ‘safe bets’, like Comic Relief, both in terms of public interest and total funds raised.

This is not because people care less – far from it. It’s more a question of engagement. Our approaches haven’t changed and consumers are losing interest.

Consumers’ expectations are shifting, particularly as they become increasingly aware of social and environmental issues that need to be tackled. With this being the case, what is the model for the future?

Changing consumer attitudes

As Cone puts it in their 2018 Purpose Study, “Beyond touting the company and its products, consumers also want to play a role in advancing the positive impact that [the] company seeks to make.”

This is backed up by YouGov’s investigation into ‘The social voice of brands’ in the US and UK. Their report states that more than half of consumers in both countries (58% in the US and 57% in Britain) believe that companies should have a point of view on societal issues. The two most common reasons for why a brand should get involved in social issues are “I want to trust the brands I want to interact with” (58% GB, 54% US) and “I want the brands I use to behave responsibly” (58% GB, 53% US).

The relationship between brand and consumer is evolving as brands realise the potential of creating a more involved approach through acts of common social good. By doing so, the brand builds a connection with consumers that goes beyond the transactional and speaks to values and trust.

And that’s why the outdoor retailer Patagonia launched their Action Works programme in 2018, looking to pair volunteers and activists with environmental charities and causes in their area.

Plus co-creative store experiences

In Deloitte’s retail trends for 2019 we see that consumers are looking for brands that stand out and help them experience something new. Better yet, when this is a co-creative experience shared between brand and consumer. Other research, such as Harvard Business School’s identification of ‘the IKEA effect’, also suggests that when consumers are engaged directly they value a product more highly.

And so, in an environment where ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers are feeling fierce competition, we’re seeing more brands adopt an experiential in-store approach. Tiffany and Co launched their Style Studio which allows shoppers to create their own look with a personalisation bar; Canada Goose experimented with a Cold Room concept that let customers know what -25 degrees Celsius feels like in one of their coats; and Glossier’s pop-up retail stores and community dinners helps their customers feel a beauty aesthetic rather than focussing on individual products.

What does this mean for how brands engage their customers with the social and environmental issues they care about?

Equals new opportunities for brands

Now more than ever, companies have an opportunity to leverage the strength of their brand to connect consumers with causes. The rationale for this model is clear enough:

Why should this matter to a brand? Because the growing majority of their customers have come to expect it.

Why do customers care? Because the brand demonstrates that it is trustworthy and listens to what its customers care about.

And why should we care as stakeholders of society and the environment? Because nothing can achieve scale and reach for the causes that we care about like the brands we love.

Employees meet about growing social impact

Want to know more?

Contact us today

Contact our expert team to find out how we can support you in corporate giving, employee engagement and sustainability, to drive real change and impact. Get in touch by calling us on 03000 123 207 or email us by clicking the button below.

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