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Fred Clements: The Give-back factor

Published September 5, 2013
A blog by NBDA executive director Fred Clements

Editor's note: This blog post was written by Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Clements' previous blogs can be read on

Bicycle stores find themselves in a hyper-competitive marketplace these days, with consumers looking for more and better products at super low prices that compare to Internet sellers.

Many stores are struggling to adapt, and are finding it challenging to please customers armed with smartphones, lots of information (some of it actually correct), and increasingly an attitude of entitlement.

Things may be changing though. New research from Nielsen Corp. shows that 50 percent of consumers are now willing to spend more on products and services from companies that give back to society. The number is growing. This may bode well for community-based bike stores that are heavily involved in bicycle advocacy, as consumers increasingly look beyond price in their shopping.

The Nielsen survey tracked consumer sentiment toward socially responsible companies in February and March, 2013. The company surveyed more than 29,000 on-line respondents in 58 countries to see whether social responsibility matters to them. 45 percent said it mattered in 2011. In 2012 the number grew to 50 percent.

In the United States (with a 44 percent number, up from 36 percent) translates to approximately 140 million U.S. consumers who favor businesses that give back to society, and who will spend more to do so.

The Nielsen report “Consumers Who Care” says the survey is a “simple gauge for whether consumers care about cause marketing, shared value, conscious capitalism or other pursuits of corporate social impact, and they help to quantify the growing desire among consumers to reward those companies they view as socially responsible.”

The report continues: “In the latest survey, half of all respondents (50 percent) said they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services—up from 45 percent in 2011. The percentage of respondents who agreed increased among both males and females and all age breaks covered.

“While respondents under age 30 are still the most likely to say they’d spend more, the attitudes among respondents ages 40 to 54 are shifting most rapidly. Among consumers ages 40-44, for instance, 50 percent agreed that they would spend extra for goods and services from companies giving back to society, up from just 38 percent two years ago.

Nick Covey, vice president of corporate responsibility at Nielsen, said, “While cause marketing programs seem to resonate most strongly among younger respondents, the rapid change in sentiment among middle-aged consumers expands the cause opportunity for brands. Today, brands can confidently focus purpose messaging on both younger and older consumers.

“Today, the question is not whether consumers care about social impact,” Covey continues, “but which ones, how much and how to appeal to them. The answer isn’t necessarily a traditional cause-marketing campaign. General responsibility, sustainable innovation and purpose messaging might also engage these consumers. No matter the approach, savvy brands are figuring out how to hit this nerve.”

In the report companies are urged to:

  • Compare your brand’s consumer segments and markets against the rates of social-consciousness found in this report. Are your customers more or less likely to care?
  • Determine whether traditional modes of cause-marketing or “transactional philanthropy” can and should be authentically executed by your brand.
  • Alternatively or in addition, are there messages of core purpose and shared value that the brand could more deliberately communicate to consumers?




“When effectively conveyed, a powerful purpose demonstrating shared value ought to be more effective and sustainable than a stand-alone cause effort any day, but this approach will not work for every brand and category. Find ways to appeal to this segment of consumers and your brand is bound to reap rewards and feel good about it along the way.”

To access the full report, go to:


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