The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

by | Jun 7, 2018 | Public Relations

Like never before in our culture, brands and businesses are being held accountable for their contributions to the greater good. An increasingly large sector of consumers, in fact, now believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to just make money—they also expect them to positively impact society, according to important new research from Porter Novelli and Cone.

Nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) Americans say they are more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands, and nearly three-quarters (73 percent) are more willing to defend them, according to the newly released 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study.

The study, examining consumer expectations and behaviors toward companies that lead with purpose, finds that—and explains how—purpose-driven brands can build stronger emotional connections with consumers that go far beyond a transactional relationship.

The research reveals just how deep this emotional connection can go. In fact, 67 percent of Americans feel purpose-driven companies care more about them and their families than traditional brands.

Americans are transforming loyalty to purpose-driven brands, from pride in being associated with that company to willingness to defend that organization if someone speaks badly of it:

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

This enthusiasm to provide multidimensional support is in alignment with Americans’ expectations that companies should lead with purpose.

“Purpose-driven brands are able to develop much deeper relationships with consumers by connecting on issues that matter,” said Brad MacAffee, CEO of Porter Novelli, in a news release. “Consumers of purpose-driven brands are redefining modern-age loyalty, and brands can seek to benefit from this meaningful personal commitment.”

Purpose helps companies grow the bottom-line and expand their consumer base

Purpose-driven brands are equally well-poised to gain new customers as well as market share. Nearly nine-in-10 (88 percent) Americans say they would buy a product from a purpose-driven company and the majority would try new product lines from those brands and would be willing to pay more:

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

Americans are more likely to “endorse” and share content from purpose-driven brands

The hyper-engaged, loyal group of consumers supporting purpose-driven brands stand ready to further amplify those brand messages. Three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans would tell others to buy products from purpose-driven companies and nearly as many (73 percent) would share information or stories about that company. Consumers also want to play a role in advancing the positive impact that company seeks to make. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they would advocate for issues that company supports.

Beyond positive word of mouth, consumers of purpose-driven companies are taking their megaphones to social media. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they are more willing to share content from Purpose- driven companies with their social networks over that of traditional companies. But these consumers are willing to share more than just information about commitments to society and the environment (66 percent), they are just as likely to share product information (66 percent) as well as promotions and sales (64 percent) and the company’s overall mission (62 percent).

“Consumers’ willingness to tell a purpose-driven brand’s story means that company will have an expanded reach to entirely new audiences,” said Alison DaSilva, EVP of Purpose/CSR at Cone, in the release. “They are being introduced and ‘endorsed’ based on their role in society and shared values versus a transactional and transient benefit, further expanding a company’s future loyal consumer base.”

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

Purpose trumps cost and quality in majority of consumer behaviors

In this new era of heightened consumer expectations, leading with cost or quality is not enough. When asked to choose between supporting purpose-driven, low-cost or quality brands, Americans leaned in on purpose. Americans felt strongly that they would have a more positive emotional connection (50 percent) to a Purpose-driven company when compared with a company leading with low-cost (20 percent) or quality (30 percent) and would be more willing to defend (48 percent vs. 33 percent quality, 19 percent cost) over other brands. Purpose also trumped cost and quality when it came to sharing information or stories about that company (45 percent vs. 33 percent quality, 23 percent cost), and being proud to be associated with that company (42 percent vs. 40 percent quality, 18 percent cost).

Yet, shoppers still see the importance of high-quality products. Quality topped purpose and cost in terms of loyalty (40 percent vs. 33 percent purpose, 27 percent cost), purchase (41 percent vs. 20 percent purpose, 29 percent cost) and telling others to buy a product (44 percent vs. 27 percent purpose, 29 percent cost).

“While quality is a primary factor in deciding what to buy and which brands to recommend to others, purpose-driven companies stand to gain in the hearts, minds and passion of Americans,” DaSilva added. “This signals a strong message to marketers and business executives—purpose can be a leading part of the marketing mix, but not the only message. It’s still important to ensure your products are of high-quality and sold at a competitive price.”

Purpose impacts more than just purchase in the eyes of Americans

Purpose-driven companies will gain competitive differentiation across a variety of decisions—the first of which goes straight to a company’s bottom-line. Nearly nine-in-10 (88 percent) Americans say they would buy products from a company leading with purpose. Yet, purpose also impacts a number of other consumer decisions in relation to companies they want to support, from a company’s license to operate to its ability to garner top-tier talent. Americans will support companies that lead with purpose in the following ways:

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

Americans believe companies should address hot-button issues through purpose

Americans expect companies to lead with purpose and this means supporting issues near and dear to their hearts. In fact, seven-in-10 (71 percent) Americans expect companies to connect with them emotionally on issues that matter to them personally. Oftentimes, these issues can fall far outside the operational footprint as nearly four-in-five (79 percent) Americans believe companies should work to address social justice issues. Americans feel companies should have a seat at the table to solve complex and hot-button topics including:

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

“From #MeToo to March for Our Lives, the last year has seen unprecedented levels of support for critical social justice issues that connect with Americans on a far deeper and vastly more emotional level,” said DaSilva. “While no company should stand for all these issues, organizations should look within and use their unique Purpose to determine which issues they can authentically support.”

Americans believe all industries must lead with purpose

More than three quarters of Americans feeling strongly that all industries must not only have a deeply rooted sense of purpose, but must share that Purpose with consumers. This means no company gets a pass when communicating purpose. When asked among which industries it was most important to have and communicate a sense of purpose, Health and Wellness (87 percent) topped the list, followed by Food and Beverage (81 percent) and Technology (81 percent). Still, Americans also believe it is important for the following industries to have and communicate a sense of purpose:

The new loyalty—Americans build deeper connections with purpose-driven brands

When communicating, all companies must make sure to share that purpose with a surround-sound approach in mind. Six-in-10 Americans (61 percent) don’t believe that a company has Purpose unless it is clearly stated in places they can easily find, such as on product packaging, the company website or in the employee handbook.

“Purpose is more than a marketing tactic or bolt-on strategy,” said MacAfee. “It must be deeply embedded into the business, the brand and the experience that is delivered. And those companies that integrate purpose into the very bedrock of the business will stand to build deeper bonds with existing consumers, expand the consumer base and enlist those brand advocates to share the brand message.”

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