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The Year of Brand Activism: Survey Says 63% of Consumers Reward Purpose-Driven Brands

The Year of Brand Activism: Survey Says 63% of Consumers Reward Purpose-Driven Brands Blog Feature

Jen Barrell

Content Trainer, 10+ Years of Content & Digital Marketing Strategy

December 11th, 2018 min read

The majority of consumers are making a list of brands who align with a purpose—and they’re checking it twice.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers prefer to reward companies that are willing to take a stand on current issues, according to Accenture Strategy’s research report, “From Me to We: The Rise of the Purpose-led Brand,” based on a survey of nearly 30,000 people across 35 countries.

“Up until recently, a brand belonged to the company that invested in shaping, growing and monetizing it,” according to the report. “This is no longer the case and brands are now community property belonging to shareholders, employees, and customers.”

Customers see themselves in the driver's seat, with two-thirds of them believing that their actions—from commenting in social media to participating in boycotts—can influence a brand’s reaction to news and issues of the day.

Almost half (47%) will walk away from a brand if they are frustrated with the position it takes (or if it is unwilling to take a position at all), and 17% will cut the brand from their buying habits permanently.

On the flip side, consumers reward brands whose values and behavior are consistent. Sixty-six percent of consumers surveyed believe transparency is one of a brand’s most attractive qualities. But that transparency needs to extend throughout an organization—65% of consumers are influenced to buy a brand, product or service by the words, actions, values, and beliefs of a company’s employees—not just the CEO or marketing spokespeople.

The Word (If Not the Theme) of the Year

One thing is certain, brand activism has found its strength in the second half of 2018.

  • Accenture’s survey results are consistent with an Edelman Earned Brand study released in early October, which found that 64% of consumers worldwide will make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position.

    The Edelman report also found the majority of the 8,000 people interviewed believed brands have more power to both address and solve for social issues than the government.“Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates,” said Richard Edelman, president, and CEO of Edelman. “It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and if necessary, make the leap into activism.”

  • Members of the Association of National Advertisers selected “Brand Purpose” as the ANA 2018 Marketing Word of the Year (and, yes, I know that’s two words—I don’t make the rules).

    This comes on the heels of the ANA establishing the ANA Center for Brand Purpose to “fuel business growth by helping marketers create purpose-driven, strategic programs and solutions for their products and services.”

  • Most recently, Progressive Shopper, a Google Chrome extension that launched December 7, tracks companies’ political contributions and notifies users of a brand’s political affiliation.

    Users land on a page and will see a color-coded flag appear (if the extension has adequate information on the brand): blue denotes a company and its employees give primarily to Democrats, purple shows relatively equal contributions to Democrats and Republicans, and red indicates companies that give primarily to Republicans.

Making Purpose Front and Center

The data shows that consumers are looking to pair their wallets with their values. As the Accenture report tells us, “[Consumers] reward principles such as family connections, health, security, sustainability, or respect for religious beliefs.”

For those companies that thrive on transparency and have their missions already entrenched as purpose-driven brands, aligning with a purpose and being vocal about it could make competitive sense.

But there can be just as much risk involved in brand activism as there can be reward. And the decision to leap into brand activism should be carefully considered.

As content marketers, we already put our customers’ experiences first, giving them the information they need to make sound decisions on their timeline. The same should be said about becoming a purpose-led brand, as we look to the shared values our brands have with our customers.

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