Why Conscious Consumerism Matters to Your Business

Conscious consumerism is the growing trend of consumers purchasing from companies who express ideas and beliefs that align with their own. When I asked my network whether or not they had ever purchased or stopped purchasing from companies based on that companies stances, I got a ton of responses: 

About Hobby Lobby:

Regarding the Israel/Palestinian conflict: 

About Volkswagen:

About Victoria’s Secret: 

“The main business I stopped purchasing from was Victoria Secret. Not only are their sizes not very inclusive, but neither are their beliefs. The CEO recently came out and explained why he will never hire or advertise plus size or transgender women. He says they are not ” sexy” and therefore will not be able to sell the sex appeal that his brand thrives off of.

Bras and underwear are worn by nearly all women so it’s disgusting to me that he thinks to limit his representation in marketing to only those who are fit the unattainable societal beauty. I guess that helps to continue selling products. You can never look like a VS angel but if you buy the products then at least you dress like them.”

Jessica Harrison (my cousin, whoot whoot!)

When you Google “conscious consumerism”, the first posts that pop up are titled “Conscious consumerism is a lie.” But after reading those posts, I’ve determined that they’re limiting the scope of what conscious consumerism has grown to be. Many businesses still don’t get it though: 

Post not coming up? View it by clicking here.

I couldn’t resist responding to this LinkedIn video post, so this is what I said:

No way. Paying attention to what matters to your customer can help engender brand loyalty, and, AHEM, sales.

I don’t consider the two mutually exclusive. More consumers care about whether or not businesses positively impact the community, global and local.

Competition is so fierce, you can’t ignore trends like this.

Ruthie Bowles, Owner, Defy The Status Quo

The conscious consumer trend is picking up steam with Millennials and GenZ consumers. It’s important to remember that the oldest Millennials are about 40. And if you want to plan for the future, you have to understand what your customer or client base will evolve into as younger generations gain more purchasing power. 

Way Beyond the Environment

Consumers are conscious of more than just environmental causes. Many people associate the phrase conscious consumerism with concern over companies’ supply chains. Don’t get me wrong, green supply chains are incredibly important to the health of our planet, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of conscious consumerism.

What Type of Conscious Consumer Do You Have? 

Conscious consumers come in many flavors. A person can be socially conscious, politically conscious, and value conscious. In her Medium article on defining conscious consumerism, Jaya Ramchandani came up with a succinct definition: 

“A conscious consumer is an agent of change who considers the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of their buycott and boycott actions.”

Jaya Ramchandani, What is Conscious Consumerism?

She also noted that you should qualify what type of conscious consumers you have. When you’re looking at your buyer persona data, do you have: 

  • Environmentally conscious consumers
  • Socially conscious consumers
  • Politically conscious consumers
  • Value-conscious consumers

Noting this difference will strongly impact your brand messaging. 

The Meaning Economy

In his book The Marketing Rebellion, author and marketing expert Mark Schaefer explores the concept of “The Meaning Economy”. He notes that: 

“Today, 9 out of 10 Americans would take a lower-paying job if it meant they could do meaningful work that contributes to society. Meaning is the new money. Meaning is the new marketing.”

Mark Schaefer, The Marketing Rebellion

How are you infusing your target market’s beliefs into your brand? In this hyper-connected world, meaning is how you will attract customers who turn into brand ambassadors. 

5 Important Stats Related to Conscious Consumerism

Here are some of the numbers behind the conscious consumerism trend. We also explore why they’re relevant to your business, no matter its size. That’s key right there. It doesn’t matter what size your business is, your beliefs and conscious actions may be why consumers purchase from you.

I recorded an episode on these stats for The Defiant Business Podcast, which you can listen to below.

1. 70% of Americans believe that companies have the obligation to improve issues that aren’t relevant to their business.

There’s a big concern around the green supply chain. Most savvy consumers realize that when companies put effort into making their supply chain green, doing things like using renewable energy resources and things like that, in the end, they end up saving money. And consumers also recognize that when companies make these sorts of moves, they are catering to their consumer.

But your customers and clients want to know what you’re doing to handle issues that aren’t related to your business. You’ll have to look beyond just improving your business footprint and look at the community you’re in. 

2. 78% of Americans believe that it’s important for companies to stand up for social justice issues. 90% of black Americans feel this way.

When you’re wondering whether or not you should take a stance when something happens in America, understand that it depends on your customer. If your customer expects you to say something, then the answer is yes. 

Because not saying something actually has the opposite effect. You don’t have to come out on one side or another for a particular issue. Your customers will make up their minds about your lack of opinion.

“Yes, I stopped buying multiple brands due to their lack of values (Nike, Zara, GAP, I’m sure more but those come to mind)”

Jessica Lathrop, Owner of Smoochies, custom wine glass maker

In each situation, you have the protagonist and the antagonist. You may feel that, as a business, your best option is to take the third option, which is not to say anything. 

But actually, when you do this, customers are lumping you in with the antagonist. So you need to stand up.

3. 65% of Americans will research to see if a company authentically supports an issue.

You can’t say that you care about something and then fail to back it up in any other way. A perfect example of this is pride month. It felt like a lot of companies changed their logo on social media to show support. 

However, if you go back through their social media or their website content, there’s nothing mentioned about them supporting any sort of issue related to that. So a customer to whom that cause is very important might consider you changing your logo or adding the filter over it as inauthentic, which would turn them off.

This is actually true for 76% of Millennials. These consumers are conscious of the fact that where they spend their money as one person may not be a big deal. As a group, however, they know that money talks and if they can spend their money with conscious companies, then they feel like they’re making an impact.

One company did a great job of showing their consistent commitment to the LGBTQ+ cause, and that was Booz Allen Hamilton. Here are just a few examples of how BAH shows how they support this cause on social media. 

They hit the streets and marched with their employees: 

Having trouble viewing the post? Click here to see it on Instagram.

BAH featured employee stories:

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Even moving beyond social media, BAH even featured this cause on their website’s homepage and multiple employee feature articles. 

While individual instances of discrimination may still occur among individual employees, it’s very clear that Booz Allen Hamilton supports the LGBTQ+ community. 

This is the sort of transparency and commitment your customers and clients are expecting to see from you. 

4. 87% of consumers would support a product or a company because that company supports an issue that they care about. 89% of consumers are willing to switch to a brand associated with a good cause, all things being equal.

What does “all things being equal mean?” A really easy industry for all things to be equal would be something like banking. You’ve got Bank A and Bank B, and you hear that Bank A runs community programs for children. If you have children, this will touch you. I have children, so something like this would impact my judgment of a company significantly.

If they run community programs to help children increase their financial literacy, all things being equal – interest rates and incentives about the same – as a millennial parent I’m more likely to work with Bank A. 

Even if that bank charges a little bit more for certain things, I know that by supporting them, in a very indirect way, I’m supporting the programs that they run to help kids. All things being equal and maybe all things being a little bit more, you can still draw consumers to you because of the good work that you’re doing.

Financial literacy in kids is something that anybody can get behind. But so is pets, right?

Maybe every first Friday you and your office go to your local SPCA walk the dogs and pet the cats. You need to post about it. Why? Because… 

5. 74% of consumers don’t believe that companies are trying to be responsible and give back to the community unless they see it.

It’s not bragging if you are telling the customer what they need to hear to make a decision that’s going to make them the happiest. Let’s show our consumers that we’re giving back because 74% won’t believe that you are doing these things if you don’t prove it. 

You have a responsibility to show them that you are in fact doing these things so they can make the most informed choice.

What do you think of the growing conscious consumer trend? Is there a company you buycott or boycott because of its official position on issues you care about? Let us know in the comments. 

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