The 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study, a global study analyzing the business value of brands has found that consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong purpose.
The study surveyed more than 8,000 individuals across Singapore, Malaysia, China, India, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and France. As part of the study, consumers rated their perceived strength of purpose of more than 75 brands. Researchers then performed a correlation and regression analysis to understand the relationship between consumers’ perceptions of a brand’s Purpose and their attitudes and intended behavior toward them.
In core markets in Asia, the study found that consumers in Singapore, Malaysia and India were most likely to buy from a brand with a strong Purpose; France and the UK emerged as the countries most likely to trust, champion, and defend a brand with a strong Purpose. The survey also found that the benefits of a strong Purpose held across regions and generations, with 82% of consumers saying they took action to support a company or brand when they believed in its Purpose, sharing positive opinions of that brand with others, encouraging others to support or buy it, or starting to buy from the brand themselves.
The inclination for consumers to act against brands or companies they disagreed with was stronger in Asian countries, while in the United States, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, consumers were slightly more forgiving of brands when they disappointed.
“Asia has a long and strong tradition of companies and brands acting with purpose beyond profit,” said Paul Mottram, Regional President, Asia Pacific, Zeno Group. “Today, we can back that up with clear proof that purpose and profit are closely related. Every company needs to ask itself not just what’s the ROI of a commitment to purpose, but also what are the risks and costs from not taking it seriously or relying purely on philanthropy.”
Respondents were asked to identify the top attributes of purposeful brands and revealed eight key elements:
In Asia, consumers rated making “products and services that reflect the needs of people today” as the top element of a purposeful brand. In North America and Europe, respondents ranked “fair treatment of employees” as the number one element of a purposeful brand.
According to Zeno, consumers have “raised the bar and are looking to companies to advance progress on important issues within and outside of their operational footprint.” The study found that 94% of global consumers say it is important that the companies they engage with have a strong Purpose.
“However, a significant gap exists as only 37% believe companies today actually do,” said Zeno, adding that, “83% of consumers surveyed globally said companies should only earn a profit if they have a positive impact, implying consumers have developed an expectation for brands and companies to have a higher calling beyond earning profits and rewarding shareholders.”
“The data proves that consumers expect companies to have a more meaningful reason for being and are making decisions about what to buy and where to work with an eye toward supporting those that share their values,” said Alison DaSilva, Managing Director, Purpose & Impact at Zeno Group.
“Yet, companies are leaving equity and opportunity on the table as the majority of consumers do not believe companies today have a clear and strong Purpose. It has never been more important for companies to not only articulate their Purpose, but to consistently demonstrate that Purpose in how they operate, support issues and engage with all stakeholders.”
The study also highlighted the so-called “cancel culture” with nearly eight-in-ten (76%) of global consumers indicating they will act against brands whose purpose, values or behaviors they disagree with, by “no longer buying from the brand, switching to a competitor, or discouraging others from buying or supporting it,” said Zeno Group.
“Asia has a long and strong tradition of companies and brands acting with purpose beyond profit.”
The cancel culture behavior appears strongest among younger generations, with 88% of Gen Z and 85% of Millennials saying they were more likely to act negatively towards a brand they disagreed with. Primary actions included sharing their opinions with family and friends, whereas Boomers and Matures were more likely to act with their wallets, saying they would stop buying from the brand altogether.
The inclination for consumers to act against brands or companies they disagreed with was stronger in Asia countries (China, 92%; Malaysia, 91%; Singapore, 89%). Meanwhile, in the United States, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, consumers were slightly more forgiving of brands when they disappointed.
Younger generations were most likely to champion on behalf of brands with a strong Purpose the survey found:
“When it comes to Gen Z – teens and 20-somethings – the stakes for brands couldn’t be higher, as many of these young people are in fact their own brands. They expect brands to live their Purpose with action and to responsibly and consistently wield their economic and social power for good,” said DaSilva added.
“Gen Z’s number one ambition is to build a better world through the strength of collective action. Those brands that do not put authentic and actionable Purpose at their core risk losing one of the most influential youth generations on the planet.”
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