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Pairing Up Ads With a Cause Can Boost Brand Sales

A new report out of the Cone and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business shows that advertisers pairing up their message with a non-profit cause can effectively raise sales, at least for some products. The study followed 182 sample consumers, who were shown a new regional print mag, which contained either an ad for a consumer good paired up with a non-profit's plea, or simply a generic ad. When the consumers were let loose in a mocked-up convenience stor with 150 mock items and given real money to pick and chose items in the four seperate categories: shampoo, toothpaste, chips, and lightbulbs.

Looking at the results, it seems if you're in the business of hygiene-related producys, you may want to put a call into Unicef. From the report:

Substantial cause-related sales lift for two of the four consumer packaged goods categories tested:
  • 74% increase in actual purchase for a shampoo brand when associated with a cause(47% of participants who saw the cause-related message chose the brand while only 27% of those who saw the generic corporate advertisement chose the brand)
  • 28% increase in actual purchase for a toothpaste brand when associated with a cause (64% of participants who saw the cause message chose the target brand vs. 50% who viewed the generic corporate advertisement)
Meanwhile, cause-related marketing seemed to barely move the needle for chips and lightbulbs, registering only modest increases. The researchers went on to confirm the results with a similar test online. Interviews with test participants found that, unsurprisingly, both the product and the non-profits message mattered when choosing products. It may not be that shampoo and toothpaste are inherantly better products to pair up with a do-gooder message, just that in this case the product and message seemed to sync up for consumers.

Still, it's an important validation of cause-related marketing. During an economic down turn, when advertisers will have to fight even harder to break through to consumers, using the halo effect of a admired or beloved cause may be one way to get attention. And hey, if it helps out the world a bit too, all the better.

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