Despite Recession, Consumers Still Spend on Socially Conscious Brands

Despite the recession, consumers are still spending with companies and brands which have a social purpose. Such is the key finding of a new survey released by Edelman, which examines consumer spending globally during the downturn.

The survey, which polled 6,000 people in 10 countries, reveals that during this recession, 57% globally say a company or brand has earned their business because it has been doing its part to support good causes. Two out of three (67%) globally also say they would switch brands if another brand of similar quality supported a good cause, peaking in Brazil (83%) and Italy (74%).

The study also found that 83% of people are willing to change consumption habits if it can help make the world a better place to live, indicating a consumer shift and trend away from traditional status symbols like big houses and luxury cars and toward identification with social purpose brands. The findings overall show that today more than twice as many people (67% would rather drive a hybrid car than a luxury car (33%), with Japan (89%t) and France (84%) preferring hybrid cars most.

The study results suggest that in both harsh and rebounding economies, brands will continue to benefit from identifying and contributing to a positive social purpose that makes sense for their business, with 64% of people globally saying they would recommend a brand that supports a good cause (up from 52% 2008, and in the U.S., up 16 points from 47% in 2008 to 63% this year). In addition, 63% of all respondents are looking to brands and companies to make it easier for them to make a difference, with Brazil having the highest expectations at 86 percent.

While the global recession has created limitations, with 70% of consumers saying their ability to give money to community causes has been limited, people are still giving of their time. Thirty-three percent have given less financial support due to the current economic downturn (rising to 51% mong U.S. respondents), but 31% are more involved in good causes than a year ago—and 53% have given more time in support of good causes this year because they have not been able to give as much money. In addition, 56% have tried to do more to support good causes in the past year because charities and other nonprofit organizations have suffered in this economic environment – underscoring both consumers' desire to increase their social purpose activities, as well as the opportunity for companies and brands to develop initiatives that enlist consumers to help them work to effect positive change.