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Advertising with a Conscience
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The ones who are coming of age during the Great Recession, the millennials, are front and center when it comes to the latest trend in corporations — giving back. Yes, recent studies suggest that millennial consumers are more apt to patron brands that support a good cause than a brand that does not.

Why? One consumer anthropologist puts it, "...[millennials] feel a resentment towards consumerism."

Okay; so commercializing kindness works, too.

USA Today ran an article last week that talked about big brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Panera putting up shops that cater to giving back to audiences that have fallen under hard times, or who designate a certain percent of profit to charities.

And millennials dig it: according to a survey done by Edelman, 47% of consumers said that they buy from a brand that supports a good cause at least once a month. And 72% of consumers said that they would recommend a brand that supports a good cause. A study done by Weber Shandwick notes that consumers are more than likely to discuss the good deeds of a company than its financial performance.

Of course, these results do not mean that every brand in the world should leap to good deeds just because it may increase sales. Consumers make decisions on more than cause support, even if they know it or not. But the findings are compelling enough to show the advertising community that if our client or brand supports a good cause, it lifts the brand's image in the mind of the consumer.

We believe that AdLand is on the same page. The message of "goodvertising" has been floating around for some time now, and, based on the actions of these big brands, it may be catching on. The fact is that the free enterprise system is meant to provide nearly everything our society needs. It picks winners and losers, and the winners help build and support communities through the profits they develop. Therefore, this "trend" of supporting good after achieving success in the marketplace isn't so farfetched; scholars of the system should see that this is fulfillment of the free enterprise theory.

Advertising can help by relaying that message. That the brands we support and the goods and services we provide make our communities a better place. Not only that, but we can use advertising to publicly support causes that are dear to the heart of our brands. If millennial consumers want to see brands support a cause, we bet you that they're going to get just that.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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