Chinese outpace western peers as most engaged in social good

BEIJING - Consumers in emerging economies like China and India are more likely to purchase and promote brands that support good causes, outpacing their peers in Europe and the United States, according to the fourth annual Edelman goodpurpose study.

Chinese outpace western peers as most engaged in social good

Compared to 2009, percentage of adults who are personally involved in supporting a good cause jumped 23 points in China to 89 per cent, and 34 points to 81 per cent, in India.

Seven in 10 respondents in China would buy products from companies that support good causes, compared to just over one half (54 per cent) in major Western European economies.

"The concept of charity or social purpose has long been one of the core values in the Chinese culture," said Steven Cao, founder and CEO of Pegasus Communications, one of Edelman's two PR brands in China. "Since China started reforms and opened up to the outside world and as the country develops economically and socially, philanthropy and social responsibility are again on the minds of the consumer."

Urban consumers in China outrank their peers on several measures of commitment to social purpose. Almost nine in 10 are involved in supporting good causes, compared to 56 per cent globally, while 78 per cent have more trust for a brand that is ethically and socially responsible, compared to 65 per cent globally.

"Purpose is now the fifth P of marketing. It's a vital addition to the age-old marketing mix of product, price, place, and promotion," said Mitch Markson, chief creative officer at Edelman, and the founder of Edelman goodpurpose. "Purpose allows brands to have a deeper level of engagement with their consumer - and it also allows consumers to put their own mark on brand marketing by collaborating with brands to tackle important social issues."

As consumer involvement rises, their expectation of brands and companies remains high. 91 per cent of consumer respondents in China believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society's interests as it does on those of business. Seven in 10 of these respondents expect brands to do something to support a good cause.

While consumers expect that companies show a commitment to good causes, they are also willing to punish those that do not. More than one-third of the study sample in China would punish a company that doesn't actively support a good cause by criticising it to others (45 per cent), refusing to buy it (34 per cent), or sharing negative opinions and experiences (44 per cent). Nearly one half (45 per cent) would not invest in such a company.

"Consider that 40 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds globally would help promote a socially responsible brand by promoting it on a social networking site," Markson said. "Companies should embrace this activity, especially given the increasing voice that social media gives today's consumer."

"Social media in China develops quickly and consumers are using these outlets as a vehicle for their voices to have an impact," added Cao. "Companies oriented with social purpose should closely examine what is being said online to develop the best approach for participation."