Analysis & Opinion

Consumer Pulse: Shifting from Consumerism to Causism

March 25, 2009 MullenLowe

90% of Americans are interested in what companies are doing to promote social change — and social responsibility is becoming a larger part of what consumers look for in brands today. In particular, sustainability and cause-related associations have become new and relevant ways for brands to build loyalty. Here’s a snapshot of what we found:

A purchase to feel good about

As the recession deepens, consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to financially support charities and worthy causes, while also feeling increased levels of guilt about self-indulgent consumption. Brands that enable consumers to demonstrate a level of social consciousness while satisfying their fundamental needs and wants give them permission to buy — and a reason to feel good about their purchase.

Shared values, self reflection

The desire to be seen as “community-minded” and as a “good citizen” is why 80% of consumers are more likely to switch to brands that are associated with a meaningful cause. Consumers identify with cause-related brands that share their values and make an ethical statement about who they are. Today, a brand’s social purpose trumps its style and innovation attributes.

Say it proudly, say it publicly and say it loud

84% of consumers say they’re actively seeking outlets to openly express their support for their causes and to make a statement about what they stand for. Among social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter more than 26 million users have publicly promoted and proudly associated themselves with the causes they support.

Just being green is not nearly enough

While consumer consciousness is still largely focused on green initiatives, fair labor, raw material sourcing and business practices are also affecting consumer purchasing decisions. Consumers want to fully understand the impact of their decisions on their immediate family, communities and the world at large.


  • Consumers are highly interested in cause-related brands that promote social change. Be transparent about what “good” you’re doing and they will buy.
  • Explore ways to align consumers with the brand mission for social change — and give them meaningful ways to identify with your brand values. Doing so will help your brand win friends and influence people.
  • Build relationships and engender brand loyalty with consumers who are seeking to fulfill their own desire for sustainability and satisfy their social purpose in life. They become evangelists.
  • Go beyond green initiatives. Think about how your brand impacts not just the environment but also society at large.