Home Articles Consumers are demanding their brands have a social purpose

Consumers are demanding their brands have a social purpose


Over the past six months, we have watched the public meltdown of three major, formerly stellar brands – Tiger Woods, Toyota and BP.

And a few months ago, we ended the Decade of the Double Zeros with trust levels for businesses, corporations, governments, politicians, business leaders, and just about every other formal institution reportedly at or near all-time lows.

Fortunately, in the world of marketing, as in science, for every action there is almost always an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction I see is the underpinning of an Era of Responsibility, with success in this new era requiring authenticity.

For the past ten-plus years, it seems that fear, greed, self-interest, and egos have been the most established drivers of successful businesses and their leaders. The backlash to this is that consumers are beginning to demand ethics, morality, fairness, mutual respect, and social contribution in their dealings with business and government entities.

This conclusion is supported by the findings of the third annual Edelman goodpurpose™ Consumer Study of 6,000 people in 10 countries, which showed that an increasing number of people are spending on brands that have a social purpose, despite the prolonged global recession.

In this study, 57% of respondents globally said a company or brand has earned their business because it has been doing its part to support good causes. Most interestingly, the countries reporting the highest level of such consumer support were China (85%) and India (84%).

Two-thirds (67%) globally also reported they would switch brands if another brand of similar quality supported a good cause, which means that a corporation’s or brand’s identification with supporting social causes would be a key differentiator between brands with similar features and attributes.

As Mitch Markson, Edelman’s Chief Executive Officer, stated when these survey results were released late last year, “People are demanding social purpose, and brands are recognising it as an area where they can differentiate themselves, not only to meet government compliance requirements, but also to build brand equity.”

In a sign of hope for the world that our children will inherit, the vast majority (87%) of respondents to this survey globally agreed it was their duty to contribute to a better society and environment and 82% feel they can personally make a difference.

But here is the number most important to marketers: 83% are willing to change their own consumption habits to help make tomorrow’s world a better place.

The bottom line for the Era of Responsibility: every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that our children inherit a better world.

Steven Howard is a Melbourne-based marketing consultant, author, professional business writer, and Non-Executive Director in both the profit and non-profit fields. He is also Chief Strategist at Howard Marketing Services (www.howard-marketing.com).