This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post Impact section.
If you’re like the vast majority of people out there, you are a citizen consumer - you just might not know it yet.
Citizen consumers are empowered individuals who take control of their buying. In purchasing local, shopping organic, or buying products related to causes, citizen consumers make choices at the checkout counter — just like at the voting booth — that carry lasting implications for themselves, their communities, and the world at large.
By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that citizen consumers are looking for more enlightened ways to spend their dollars. People want their dollar to go a little further than simply adding wealth to a company’s corporate coffers — they want that money to have impact — real life impact in the lives of individuals in need around the world.
Simply put, people want to do good by buying. But don’t take my word for it. A recently released study by cause marketing firm Cone LLC announced that an astounding 94 percent of consumers would switch brands if one carried a cause and another did not. When factors like cost and product type were made equal, 94 out of 100 people would choose to buy the product that supported a good cause. That’s not just proof that citizen consumers are looking for ways to spend their money that contributes to a better world. That’s overwhelming, hit-you-over-the-top-of-the-head, slam-bang news that companies should be heeding. With 94 percent of consumers concluding that they simply want their shopping to do good, companies need to step up and recognize the powerful opportunity — and potential challenge — they face in light of an empowered consumer citizenry that is ready to put their dollars where companies are connecting causes with their products.
The opportunity is obvious. When companies engage in a meaningful way with a cause that their consumers care about, those consumers are going to switch to that brand over another brand that simply stacks its profits with no regard to the less fortunate. But for companies that don’t heed this clarion call, they may find slumping sales as customers follow the good and as consumers follow the impact.
Consumers know that corporations wield considerable power. They understand that a well capitalized company can engage in all sorts of marketing tricks and sales tactics to win ever more sales, and ever higher profits. And now they desire, in fact are demanding, that companies play a meaningful role in improving the quality of the world.
I’ve written in the past of how large swaths of the human population exist in abject poverty. Bet you didn’t know that 3.1 billion of your fellow human beings subsist on less than $2.50 a day. When causes like ending poverty are so real, consumers want companies to take a meaningful stand and contribute to those less fortunate.
Ninety-four percent of us would literally switch brands in order to support a cause we believe in. Betting on cause isn’t just a nice way to spread cheer this holiday season. It’s good business.