Consumers rule the roost when it comes to online conversations. Technology, paired with low trust in business, has created the perfect environment for consumers to broadcast their objections to business practices and programs. And communicating your well-meaning cause effort is no guarantee the chatter will always be nice.
Case in point: the online backlash to KFC’s “Buckets for the Cure,” which was met with seething criticism by both consumers and seasoned cause marketers. The disconnect between the issue (breast cancer) and the product (fried chicken) was the main point of contention. As the conversation simmered, both the fast food chain and the nonprofit partner came under attack. The fact that this partnership has raised millions to-date is lost, perhaps forever, amid the perfect storm of skeptical consumers and critical chatter online.
The best defense? A good offense. Engage the would-be activists early in the process to better predict what issues could arise. In fact, our research found that consumers want to be engaged in the decision-making process for your social or environmental efforts. To help influence initiatives, consumers are willing to take part in a variety of activities, including participating in a survey (70%) or emailing, calling or talking with the company or an employee (32%). By providing these forums for consumers to voice their opinions, organizations will be better equipped to react to possible criticism and adjust their programs accordingly.
And the benefits don’t end there. When their ideas are put to work, consumers are more likely to buy those products and services (60%), feel more loyal to the organization (54%) and are more likely to recommend it to others (51%). So before you tie a ribbon on your soon-to-launch product, why not ask your consumers what they think about the cause, the nonprofit partner and the details? They’ll be eager to engage, and it may just swap a future headache for a brand halo.