More students preferring responsible brands

The social responsibility of a product or brand is becoming increasingly important to students, according to a 2008 survey released by Alloy Media Marketing âÄî thereâÄôs been a 24 percent increase since 2006 in the number of students who prefer socially responsible brands. âÄúItâÄôs real and its lead by a younger audience,âÄù said Howard Listz, an advertising professor at the University of Minnesota. The way a company manufactures products, the causes they support or even the way it treats its employees can all contribute to how a company is perceived and whether socially-minded consumers shop there, Listz said. âÄúYounger people, their shopping habits, their buying habits are in part influenced by the social responsibility or the causes that a company supports,âÄù he said. As consumers start paying more attention to the responsibility of corporations, Listz said itâÄôs becoming more important that companies develop an image that reflects social responsibility. âÄúFor a company to be involved in socially responsible activities is more than just being responsible, itâÄôs good for your business,âÄù he said. Mark Bergen , a University marketing professor, said the increase can be attributed to consumers realizing the added value of socially responsible goods, even if theyâÄôre more expensive. âÄúOver the last few years âĦ I think people have become more educated, people have become more aware,âÄù he said, âÄúand theyâÄôre able to realize that itâÄôs something that is valuable.âÄù Bergen said companies are adjusting to the new demand by putting out more socially responsible products and doing so in more cost-effective ways. âÄúWhen thereâÄôs a real need then the market should respond,âÄù Bergen said. However, with the tough economic times, Bergen said consumers could turn back to less socially responsible goods in favor of lower prices. âÄúWe all want it and during good times, weâÄôre happy to pay a little extra to get it,âÄù he said, âÄúbut will consumers still be willing to pay extra when they just lost their job?âÄù For companies that only advertise to be socially responsible, and really arenâÄôt, Bergen said itâÄôs up to consumers to decide if theyâÄôre âÄúwalking the talk.âÄù âÄúJust because somebody says it, doesnâÄôt mean you necessarily have to believe its true,âÄù Bergen said, but he said he sees no reason why companies would mislead consumers in that way. Regardless of the economic climate, English literature senior Laura Roehl said she doesnâÄôt mind spending more for socially responsible goods. âÄúGiven a choice, I do spend a little more for things that are socially responsible,âÄù Roehl said. She said she has definitely noticed a rise in the number of products that are advertised as socially responsible. âÄúItâÄôs in vogue,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs become cool to be socially responsible.âÄù But for other students, simple economics outweigh the potential benefits of socially responsible goods. âÄúI go for whatâÄôs cheapest,âÄù Devon Camitsch , an applied economics sophomore, said. To give consumers an outlet to buy socially responsible goods, George Polisner launched , a website where consumers can shop and compare brands based on social responsibility. Polisner said he launched the site in 2005 to help create demand for socially responsible goods and to reward companies for their good deeds. The site is a way to empower consumers, Polisner said, and a way âÄúto create a partnership between business and society.âÄù