Consumers are increasingly demanding that the brands and businesses they patronize get more involved with society, culture and their communities by taking a vocal stand for the beliefs and causes they support—and new research from global comms giant Edelman reveals the true consequences for brands that choose to stand idly by.
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely based on its position on a social or political issue, according to the newly released 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study—a staggering increase of 13 points from last year. Belief-driven buyers are now the majority across markets, including the U.S. (59 percent, up 12 points), Japan (60 percent, up 21), the UK (57 percent, up 20) and Germany (54 percent, up 17); age groups, 18-34 (69 percent), 35-54 (67 percent) and 55+ (56 percent); and income levels, low (62 percent), middle (62 percent) and high (69 percent).
The survey of 8,000 people across eight markets finds that consumers believe that brands are a more powerful force for societal change than government. More than half of people (53 percent) believe that brands can do more to solve social ills than the government, and 54 percent believe it is easier for people to get brands to address social problems than to get government to act.
“This is the birth of Brand Democracy; as consumers are electing brands as their change agents,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, in a news release. “Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. 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.”
This year’s study also found that consumers are just as likely to express purchase intent after seeing a values-led communication (43 percent) as they are after seeing a product-focused message (44 percent). Values-based messaging (32 percent) was also more effective than product-focused communications (26 percent) in driving advocacy.
“This dynamic transforms marketing from function to aspiration,” said Edelman. “Brands can take a stand across a spectrum of action from purpose to activism.”
Regardless of the level at which a brand enters the fray, opting out is no longer an option
“It’s no longer a question of whether to, but how to take a stand,” said Amanda Glasgow, U.S. chair, Brand, of Edelman, in the release. “A brand must understand its audience and think long-term so that the stand it chooses authentically connects its values to its customers.”
Other key findings from the study include:
- Nearly half (46 percent) of all consumers believe that brands have better ideas for solving our country’s problems than government.
- A majority (60 percent) of respondents say brands should make it easier to see what their values and positions on important issues are when they are about to make a purchase.
- 56 percent of people believe that marketers spend too much time looking for ways to force them to pay attention to their messages and not enough time thinking of ways to make them want to pay attention.
- At 45 percent, a brand communication delivered on earned media —a combination of social and mainstream media—was more successful in engaging consumers’ attention than paid advertising (29 percent) and owned media (25 percent). *This finding is from an ancillary mobile survey of 32,000 consumers in the same eight markets.