Products With Purpose Can Pay

A new consumer behavior study by researchers at Duke University shows that retailers can potentially increase sales by offering products affiliated with cause-related marketing campaigns such as health or environmental issues.

The results, released this week in the 2008 Cone/Duke University Behavioral Cause Study, said cause-related marketing can significantly drive actual consumer choice and entice consumers to spend twice as long viewing cause-related advertisements.

In the study’s first phase, 182 participants evaluated a new regional magazine where they were exposed to cause-related or generic corporate advertisements for one of four brands. Afterward, they entered a mock convenience store stocked with nearly 150 SKUs; they were given real money to purchase a product in each of four categories.

The results for shampoo and toothpaste showed:

  • For shampoo products, a 74% increase in actual purchase for a shampoo brand when associated with a cause;
  • Also with shampoo products, 47% of participants who saw a cause-related message chose the brand, while only 27% of those who saw the generic corporate advertisement chose the brand;
  • For toothpaste, a 28% increase in actual purchase for a toothpaste brand when associated with a cause;
  • 64% of participants who saw the cause message on toothpaste chose the target brand versus 50% who viewed the generic corporate advertisement.

    Modest increases in the other two product categories tested – chips and light bulbs – were also seen.

    Qualitative consumer responses showed that the cause-related issue, the nonprofit and the inherent nature of products were key factors in making cause-related purchasing decisions.

    In the second phase of the research, Cone and Duke validated the sales increases for shampoo and toothpaste by replicating the study online among a national sample of more than 1,000 adults.

    The results showed that participants spent nearly twice as long reviewing cause-related ads versus the general corporate advertisements. This resulted in a sales increase (19%) similar to the lab study for the target toothpaste brand. And although the shampoo brand increased only by a modest 5%, sales among its target audience of women increased by nearly 14%.

    “It’s much easier to make a purchase by clicking a button than it is to pick up and experience a brand in the richer store environment; the results of our study likely lie between the impulsive online shopper and the deliberate in-store shopper,”

    “One thing we know for sure,” said Gavan Fitzsimons, Duke marketing professor and lead researcher on the study. “Consumers are paying more attention to cause messages, and as a result are more likely to purchase. This is clearly great news for brand managers, as every percentage increase can translate to millions of dollars in revenue.”

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