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Tweens, teens and social responsibility

C&R Research, a Chicago based research firm specializing in the youth market, has found that a brand's perceived level of social responsibility is an increasingly important consideration when young people open their wallets.

Kids, tweens and teens are all more likely to buy a product if part of the price goes to a cause close to their hearts. Nearly half of the teens on C&R's panels said they had made a cause-related purchase, and more than 20% asked their parents to buy a particular product because it supported a cause.

And younger kids are following the same pattern. Almost 40% of tweens (ages 9 to 12) and 20% of kids (ages 6 to 10) have also bought at least one item tied to a social cause.

And big money's at stake. Studies put the annual spending power of young people ages 8 to 14 at $43 billion – and that doesn't count their influence over the billions of dollars spent by their parents, whether it's on cell phones, cars, or the family vacation.

Marketers don't have to bluntly say: "Buy our product, and 10% goes to charity." Merely associating a product with a worthy cause  can influence young people's relationships with a brand. For example, nearly 40% of teens and tweens say they have bought a product because it was made from recycled materials.

Tom's Shoes is one business that has grown around its policy of donating a pair of shoes (130,000 to date) to a needy child for each pair sold. It also involves the community in playing a bigger role supporting the effort by hosting a "sole party" or inviting students to rep for Tom's on college campuses.

Burt's Bees
also plays up its social leadership as a key part of its pitch to young consumers. In addition to other activities, it commits to giving 10% of sales proceeds to such charitable partners as Habitat for Humanity.

On the Disney web site, Miley Cyrus and a host of other Disney stars explain how kids can pledge to cut water usage or reduce household trash through the company's Friends For Change program. Those pledges will then be used to determine how Disney spends $1 million "on projects to change the planet".

Apparently, society is succeeding in getting the "social responsibility" message embedded in today's youth. Brands that want to be successful in reaching out to these influential buyers need to convince them they feel the same way!

Parts of this article originally appeared in MediaPost.

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