Singapore wants brands that improve society

Businesses in Singapore take note: More shoppers want to spend on brands which make positive contributions to a social or environmental cause. Be An Idea's Anthony Caravello shares how companies can appeal to these conscious consumers.

This is a pivotal time for brands in Singapore. Last week our consultancy, Be An Idea, released our 2016 Collaborative Brands Report, which revealed something that we’ve long suspected – many Singaporeans want brands to help build a better society, and they’re willing to pay for it.

We conducted a quantitative online survey of 265 respondents, which was distributed to Singaporeans and permanent residents of various age groups, ethnicities, gender and education level from May to July 2016. 

The majority of Singaporean residents we surveyed (81 per cent) believe that brands should play a role in improving society, and half (54 per cent) stated that they have purchased a product or service from a brand because they supported a social cause. 

People wanting brands to contribute to society is no longer just a Western phenomenon, it’s a mentality that’s alive and well in Singapore. And this mindset isn’t just found among well-to-do Millennials, it’s also present across Singaporeans of different age groups and education levels.

Our report also reveals Singapore’s most socially conscious consumer: an 18-29-year-old woman with with a university degree or higher. Nearly all women fitting this profile (95 per cent) believe brands should play a role in improving society, and nearly three-fourths (75 per cent) have purchased a product or service from a brand because they supported a social cause.

It’s impressive how supportive this group is of brands contributing to society. This is likely due to the increased number of brand campaigns in support of women empowerment and Singaporean women growing tired of the unfair stigmas and inequalities they face. They’re looking for a voice to echo their concerns and to help bring about change.

However, not everyone is impressed with brands’ efforts in support of social causes. Some 38 per cent of respondents have seen a brand support a social cause, but felt the brand’s contributions were insincere.

And of those who have seen a brand insincerely support a social cause, half of respondents (50 per cent) have stopped purchasing the brand’s product or service as a direct result [12 per cent of all survey respondents]. Over the years more and more companies have jumped on the “socially good bandwagon” to emulate the success of brands like Dove and The Body Shop.

However, many of these brands lack a genuine commitment to properly support the social cause. No defined social goal, no social program, just a YouTube video and social media engagement – this set-up risks upsetting their audiences by not adequately addressing the issue. Nobody wants to feel led on.

No defined social goal, no social program, just a YouTube video and social media engagement – this set-up risks upsetting their audiences by not adequately addressing the issue. Nobody wants to feel led on.

The good news is, there is a way for brands to strengthen the sincerity and effectiveness of their socially responsible campaigns in Singapore; and that is to build partnerships with government and non-profits.

Of those who have seen a brand support a social cause, 60 per cent at least somewhat agree with the statement “I am more trusting of brand campaigns supporting social causes when government and non-profit partners are involved.”

We believe the era of brands supporting social causes alone is over. Singaporeans will likely become increasingly discerning of company commitments to social causes. All campaigns must be backed up with action and with the relevant non-profit and government partners, or brands ultimately risk backlash.

The full Collaborative Brands Report can be accessed here: http://www.beanidea.com/collaborative-brands-survey-2016/

Anthony Caravello is a senior consultant, Be An Idea. This post was written exclusively for Eco-Business.

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