In 2007 BBMG, a marketing and branding company that helps socially conscious companies, conducted research on conscious consumers. Founded by Raphael Bemporad and Mitch Baranowski, the company’s researcher first looked at the purchasing decisions of 24 consumers in three cities: Lawrence, KS; Long Island, NY; and Livermore, CA.
Researchers observed the behaviors, values, and experiences of the consumers in order to learn why American consumers are becoming more socially aware. The findings were compiled into the BBMG Conscious Consumer Report.
The researchers discovered what BBMG terms the “five values of the socially conscious consumer.” According to the free whitepaper available on the company’s website, those values are:
1. Health and safety: Conscious consumers look for “natural, organic and unmodified products” devoid of harmful pesticides or chemicals.
2. Honesty: Conscious consumers insist on reliable and accurate product descriptions. “Making unsubstantiated green claims or over promising benefits risks breeding cynicism and distrust.
3. Convenience: Conscious consumers, due to time and budget constraints, “want to do what’s easy, what’s essential for getting by and make decisions that fit their lifestyles and budget.”
4. Relationships: Conscious consumers want to support local businesses if they can, and want to know where products come from; they “desire more personal interactions when doing business.”
5. Doing good: Conscious consumers are “concerned about the world and want do to their part to make it a better place…and they want brands to do the same.”
After conducting research on conscious consumers in three different cities, the company researched 2,007 adults nationwide between September 11 and 17, 2007 to determine how much of the U.S. population shares the values of conscious consumers. The research also became part of the Conscious Consumer Report.
The key findings shed new light on how companies can more effectively navigate the market opportunity of reaching and involving consumers who care more and more about corporate social responsibility:
1. The most important issues are the most personal.
The most pressing issues by far are those that most directly affect consumers – safe drinking water (90%), clean air (86%) and cures for diseases like cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s (84%)…only 63% of those surveyed described the more abstract issue of global warming as the most or a very important issue.
2. A conscious boom.
Americans readily self-identify as “conscious consumers” (88% well, 37% very well), “socially responsible” (88% well, 39% very well) and “environmentally-friendly” (86% well, 34% very well). There is less traction with the term “green” (65% well, 18% very well), which continues to be viewed as more exclusive and harder to achieve.
3. Making more informed decisions.
To understand if a company “does good things for people and the planet,” most use magazines and newspapers (53%), certification seals and labels on products (52%), the Internet (41%) and advertisements (30%). Friends and family members (24%) are certainly influential, but do not appear to be the primary source of information for purchasing decisions.
4. Moving beyond convenience.
While price (58% very important) and quality (66% very important) are paramount, convenience (34% very important) has been edged out by more socially relevant attributes: where a product is made (44% very important), how energy efficient it is (41% very important) and its health benefits (36% very important) are all integral to consumers’ purchasing decisions.
5. Rewards for social responsibility.
When given a choice between products of equal quality and price, consumers are more likely to buy from a company that manufactures energy efficient appliances and products (90%), promotes consumer health and safety benefits (88%), supports fair labor and trade practices (87%), commits to environmentally-friendly practices (87%) and manufactures its products in the United States (86%).
6. Is it easier being green?
Consumers willingly engage in “easy” behaviors, such as recycling cans, bottles and newspapers (55% always) and using energy efficient appliances (46% always), but they often fail to adopt a plethora of more “demanding” behaviors like carpooling (10% always), using public transportation (9% always) or purchasing carbon offsets (3% always).
“At a time of eco-saturation, American consumers are bringing a healthy dose of skepticism to the market and looking beyond generic green marketing claims,” said Bemporad. “They want brands to back green promises with specific benefits and authentic action.”