CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

by | Nov 2, 2018 | Public Relations

There’s a growing segment of the population that’s calling brands and businesses to task over their role in society—and is influencing others to support or abandon brands accordingly. First identified by MWWPR in 2017, these so-called CorpSumers base their loyalty and purchasing decisions on companies’ reputations rather than just product features and price.

The second annual study, commissioned by comms giant MWWPR and conducted by Wakefield Research, shows that 35 percent of the U.S. population now identifies as CorpSumers—a rise of 2 percent in just one year—and that 8 in 10 are willing to pay more from brands that take a stand on policy and societal issues.

The study also reveals the new litmus test for brands to engage these socially conscious consumers—and the skepticism companies must overcome to win them over

“What the last year has shown us is that companies’ engagement on societal and public policy issues is table stakes—CorpSumers don’t just want brands to take a stand, they expect it and act accordingly,” said Carreen Winters, MWWPR’s chairman of reputation and chief strategy officer, in a news release. “Bigger than moms and Millennials, this powerful market segment sees right through superficial attempts by brands to simply appear as good corporate citizens. In exchange for brand loyalty, they crave authenticity in a company’s ethos, message, and execution. ‘Goodwashing’ is the new greenwashing, and companies who attempt to dabble in purpose without authenticity do so at their own peril.”

CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

In CEOs (and their companies) we trust

As CorpSumers’ confidence in government continues to erode (an 8-point drop from 2017,) they are increasingly turning to CEOs to fill the void. A whopping 75 percent of CorpSumers base purchase decisions on their opinions of company leadership, a 4-point increase from 2017, and 36 percent believe company leadership speaking out on an important issue is the best way for companies to take a stand.

  • 90 percent of US CorpSumers are more likely to try a company’s product, and 80 percent are willing to pay more for products from companies that take a stand on societal and public policy matters.
  • 43 percent of CorpSumers prefer a company to take a stand on an issue, even if it does not align with their own point of view.
  • Furthermore, 78 percent of this segment expects companies to have meaningful corporate citizenship initiatives, a 4-point jump from 2017.

CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

So, what does the CorpSumer care about?

This year’s study provided a blueprint for exactly what issues companies need to think about when it comes to engaging these brand amplifiers. The results showed that company’s treatment of employees has the greatest impact on purchase decisions (81 percent). Other top-of-mind issues for CorpSumers include:

  • Company working conditions (56 percent)
  • Product safety (54 percent)
  • Equal pay and employment (53 percent)

But with almost 60 percent of CorpSumers expressing skepticism at companies’ underlying motives, positions on policy issues must align with a corporation’s values to engage and retain this market segment.

“Brand bravery and ‘walking the talk’ will be critical for CEOs across industries in 2019,” added Winters. “A far cry from check-the-box initiatives and greenwashing practices of years past, citizenship is the new gold standard and must be a central tenant of any C-suite agenda or corporate strategy.”

CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

Compounding influence

When it comes to these issues, the study also revealed just how influential the CorpSumers are becoming:

  • Over 3 in 4 U.S. CorpSumers consider a company’s actions before deciding to purchase from that company.
  • 70 percent of CorpSumers encourage others to buy a product from a company with a strong reputation
  • 77 percent of Gen Z and 78 percent of Millennials have encouraged someone to buy a product from a company due to its reputation, more so than Gen X and Baby Boomers.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of CorpSumers have stayed with a company despite being dissatisfied with their products or services because they believed in the company’s mission or values.
  • The opposite is also true—64 percent of CorpSumers have encouraged others to give up a product or service from companies that disappointed them, while 68 percent would abandon brands entirely if their values no longer align.

CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

To influence CorpSumers, CEOs must also take into account shifting trends in media consumption

Corporate leadership needs to lean in to social media, as it is the most trusted news source among CorpSumers looking for information about a company.  Social influencers are also key to attaining CorpSumers’ trust. Given the power of the CorpSumer to mobilize and incite change, companies will need to pay attention to their demands and expectations—or face the bottom-line impact of brand disloyalty.

Download the complete report here.

CorpSumers demand brand bravery on issues—but won’t stand for “goodwashing”

The MWWPR CorpSumer Research Study was conducted by Wakefield Research among 2,000 US consumers ages 15+ between July 24 and August 7, 2018, using an email invitation and an online survey. The margin of error for US general population consumers ages 15+ is +/- 2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For CorpSumers ages 15+, the margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.  

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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