Doing the Right Thing: Uncovering Social Responsibility with Online Surveys

Have you ever looked at the label on a “Newman’s Own” product? You may have noticed, prominently displayed, the words: “All Profits For Charity”. Why do they do that? Because of social responsibility and, perhaps more significantly, the image of social responsibility.


In seeking to understand your target market, one aspect that you might be interested in investigating is the value of being perceived as socially responsible. Are there elements of your company’s products, production techniques, hiring practices or politics, which distinguish it from the competition? Do you know if social responsibly is an element of marketing that would resonate with your target market? Let’s use an online survey to find out.

As always, I would use several different measures to create a broader construct of social responsibility. The following example statements could be used with an agreement scale such as a 5 point or 7-point scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”; or they could, with minor wording changes, be used with a scale of “describes me very well” to “does not describe me at all.” Please note that many of these items could be edited to be more specific to your product category.

Environment
• I believe that some air pollution is an acceptable cost of having an automobile.
• I feel mad when I hear about man-made environmental events such as oil spills.
• I feel most people worry too much about environmental topics.
• I would be willing to have more weeds in my grass in order to be sure that I was using environmentally-friendly lawn care products.
• I try to buy products that won’t harm the environment.
• I don’t see the point in adjusting my personal behaviors to minimize environmental impact.

Brand Decisions
• In the past six months, I avoided buying a product because the manufacturer is not socially responsible.
• I am willing to pay more for groceries if they are from companies that donate to charity.
• I avoid buying from companies that have questionable social values.
• I feel good buying from brands that have social values similar to my own.

Activism
• In the last six months, I have signed a petition or donated money for an environmental cause.
• In the last six months, I have specifically researched a company’s social responsibility.
• I often wear t-shirts that have socially conscious or environmentally friendly messages on them.
• I have bumper-stickers on my car with socially conscious or environmentally responsible messages.

Recycling
• When shopping, I prefer products packaged in recycled materials.
• I feel that products in recycled packaging usually cost too much.
• I recycle newspapers, containers, boxes, etc.
• I feel that the cost of recycling programs outweigh the benefits.

Does it Matter?

Before you go to all the trouble of positioning as a socially responsible organization, you’ll want to take a good look at you target market. Do they care about social responsibility? It’s tempting to assume they do, but it’s worth confirming. Clearly Newman’s Own believes that what they do with their profits matters to its target customers, and just as important, they feel it’s worth it to position themselves that way. What about your target market?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Korostoff
Kathryn Korostoff taught market research best practices at Ask Your Target Market, and is the president of Research Rockstar, delivering market research training and support services. She can be reached at KKorostoff AT ResearchRockstar DOT com.