91% of Millennials Readily Switch to Cause-Associated Brands

Wed Mar 1, 2017

Rachel Cagle

Instead of basing digital advertising campaigns around why the customer needs your products, havecomputerlaughing you ever considered twisting your pitch to showcase how the customer’s purchase can help others? It’s not as rare a concept as you may think. The empathetic approach is an up-and-coming marketing method that is taking the world by storm and driving sales, especially from millennials.

The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study supports the idea that all consumers, especially millennials, have a soft spot for companies with an empathetic cause. The study shows that millennials, as opposed to the U.S. population as a whole, would:

  • switch to a cause-associated brand: 91% vs. 85%
  • take a cut in pay to be employed by a responsible company: 62% vs. 53%

According to Tyler Butler, the founder of 11Eleven Consulting, millennials have been found to be the generation most compelled to support social causes. This generation is also widely known for being digitally dominated, so companies that boast about their good causes can use digital tools to promote their socially conscious ways as much as they use them to pitch their products.

For example, what do you think of when you see the brand name TOMS? People typically associate this brand with its charitable mission: when customers buy a pair of TOMS’ shoes, sunglasses or other items, the company donates a similar product to charity. Millennials could not get their hands on these products quickly enough. Groups on college campuses even sprang up in support of the company’s movement. That kind of support from customers is free word-of-mouth and digital advertising.

So, how can conventional companies start the empathetic advertising process? In her article, “Reaching Consumers by Showing Empathy,” Anne Field gives a few dos and don’ts concerning the approach:


  1. Choose charitable partners that fit well with your company in a way that will help customers easily associate their good works with you.
  2. Record your charitable successes and broadcast them, especially on media commonly used by millennials, such as nearly any form of digital. Once a few millennials see it, word will spread and so will your advertising.

Do Not:

  1. This isn’t something you can half-heartedly try just to support your advertising. You have to be invested in the cause you picked. If you aren’t, your ambiguity will be noticed and exposed and will have the opposite effect that you wanted.
  2. Don’t jump too quickly into supporting a cause just because it is popular. Take Starbucks for example. Starbucks’ CEO promised to oppose President Trump’s executive order concerning refugees by hiring 10,000 refugees worldwide. While this stance did rally numerous supporters behind the pledge, there was also the threat of a boycott from those against it. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each empathetic decision before deciding if it’s the best choice for the success of your company.

Encourage your clients to take empathetic action. It doesn’t matter what digital formats they use, millennials will be sure to find it. And in a world full of ads that are constantly telling customers what they need, your clients will stand apart from the crowd by broadcasting empathy at the forefront instead.

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About Rachel Cagle

Rachel is a Brand Research Specialist at SalesFuel. She holds a Bachelors in English from The Ohio State University. She specializes in major accounts research for AdMall.

View all posts by Rachel Cagle