A lot has changed in terms of how consumers want to spend their money and what drives them to shop with a specific brand.
Until recently, things like price, desirable product features, or good customer service were factors that gave brands enough competitive edge to win over their share of the market.
With new challenger brands springing up left and right and industries becoming more crowded, companies that give back are finding themselves with a clear competitive advantage.
And like any other competitive advantage in a marketplace, the more brands adopt it the more quickly it becomes something consumers start to expect. And the more quickly it can backfire if brands take an inauthentic approach.
By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on the data behind this consumer behavior trend, equipped with some actionable ways you can identify and genuinely align with the missions and causes that make sense for your business, resonate with your customers — and improve the world around you.
Here’s a sampling of what we’ll cover:
- Giving back to charities or nonprofits
- Making sustainability your mission
- Staying authentic and transparent about your company’s purpose
- The importance of being vocal about your mission
- Why you should take a stance on social issues
We’ll unpack those in more detail later. But first, the data —
The consumer appetite to spend their money with purpose
A recent study by Accenture shows that 62% of consumers want companies to stand up for the issues they are passionate about. On top of that, 53% of consumers who are disappointed in a brand’s words or actions on a social issue will complain about it and 47% will walk away from the brand in frustration.
Having your customers complain about your brand is already damaging enough, but 17% say they will never shop with the brand again.
All of this points to another big recent change in consumer mindset and expectation. Where consumers used to shop with the mindset of “what can this brand do for me?” many have now shifted to a mindset of “what is this brand doing for us and our community?”
Last year Zeno Group surveyed 8,000 consumers across 8 different countries to find out how much a brand’s purpose or mission mattered to them and, more importantly, how they interact with the brands who have missions that align with their personal values.
Across every country surveyed, an overwhelming majority said they had taken an action when they believed in a brand’s purpose. When they think a brand has a strong purpose they are 4 times more likely to purchase from the company, 6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism, and 4.5 times more likely to champion the brand and recommend it to their friends and families.
These numbers are pretty remarkable, especially at a time where “cancel culture” is on the rise and consumers won’t hesitate to abandon a person or company who disappoints them. Not only will a strong purpose get your brand more loyal customers that will advocate for you during the good times, but it can even keep them by your side in the event of a misstep.
Although the demand for companies that give back is increasing, shopping ethically isn’t exactly a new concept. The biggest reason that brands are shifting so quickly to align with a mission is because with information so readily available to today’s consumers, they have more power — and opinions — than they used to have.
Reviewers with a mission
Given the recent uptick in these trends, we took a deeper look into how often people mention these themes in the reviews they write on Trustpilot, and how that’s changed over time.
When we look at the amount of times customers are mentioning mission, ethical, company values, and brand values in their reviews the numbers have skyrocketed from 2017 to present day.
When we look at our review data from 2019-2021 compared to 2017-2019, there’s almost three times (or 174% more) reviews mentioning these themes than there were just four years ago.
174% is already a pretty big jump in a short time, but take a look at the totals for the 2020-2021 vs. 2019-2020 – the number has almost doubled. The amount of reviews containing these terms is only speeding up, not slowing down.
These trends point to a change in the way people shop and review their experiences, with more and more of them highlighting the missions of the companies they shop with.
Takeaways to make your company more mission-driven, no matter your industry
Your company doesn’t need to be completely centered around one mission for you to take advantage of these trends. There are plenty of smaller ways to align your brand with a mission.
When the Zeno Group surveyed consumers around their beliefs on companies with purpose, they found that while 94% of consumers said purpose was important for brands, only 37% believed companies today had a clear and strong purpose.
This discrepancy points to a big opportunity for brands to align with a purpose and make sure their customers know about it. Let’s look into some of the changes you can implement to start making a difference in a way that’s authentic and true to your company’s ethos — because the only thing worse than having no mission at all in your customers’ eyes, is being performatively ethical.
1. Give back to charities or nonprofits.
This is probably the easiest way for companies to get involved with a mission or purpose. Partnering with charities or nonprofits and giving a percentage of proceeds helps your employees feel more engaged at work and it helps customers want to shop with you.
And you’re allowed to get creative here. If giving a percentage of all of your proceeds seems too intimidating at first, you can start by doing it for certain products or for a limited time.
If you’re a local business, you can partner with local charities or an organization that will really help your community right at home. It’s better to start small and build on it than not have a mission at all.
Just make sure your actions speak louder than your words.
2. Make sustainability your mission.
Are there impactful ways that your company strives to be more sustainable? If you’re creating your products in real sustainable ways – or there are ways to do this that you’ve been considering – commit to more sustainable production and operations and then make that a part of your company’s brand messaging and value proposition.
3. Always be authentic and transparent about your purpose
Today’s consumers have more information than ever before at their fingertips and they’re extremely savvy. If a cause is super important to them, you can rest assured that they’ll do their due diligence and look into your commitment to that cause before buying with you. Misleading the public about being committed to a cause without actually helping will never work out for you.
Greenwashing – or any other type of behavior like it – is worse than not having a purpose at all. Don’t over inflate claims about how you’re helping, even a little bit. Chances are it will come back to haunt you.
Don’t be afraid to be vocal about your mission
As long as you’re being honest and transparent about your mission, you shouldn’t be afraid to be vocal about it. However you decide to support a cause it’s important to get the message out so your customers know what they’re helping to support and you can attract new customers that are passionate about that cause.
Shoppers are also inundated with repetitive marketing copy constantly, so putting a focus on how you’re helping make the world a better place can be a welcome break from promoting more of your products.
5. Speak up on social issues and injustices – but tread carefully
Many consumers do want brands speaking up on the issues they care about, but in an increasingly polarizing world it can be difficult to do this effectively.
In our opinion, it’s best to focus on the issues you believe your customers will all want to get behind.
The future of purpose-driven businesses
By now it should be clear that ethical businesses are less of a passing trend and more of a lasting paradigm shift — and that’s a good thing. But what does the future hold for those businesses that are walking the talk of their brand values?
Ethical brands will embrace human rights and environmental causes over politics
It will be increasingly difficult to cater to customers on both sides of the political divide. Brands will walk the line of supporting causes that truly matter, but also won’t alienate portions of their customer base.
There are brands – like Ben & Jerry’s – that have been able to support overtly political causes, but for most brands this will be harder to pull off with grace and authenticity. We believe it’s best to focus on the issues that will resonate most with your customer base.
Consumers will view purpose as a necessity for businesses, not just a bonus
It’s hard to imagine a world where the consumer desire to spend their money with companies that give back is going to slow down. This trend is all but sure to increase even more quickly. Adopting some sort of purpose or mission – no matter how big or small – can go a long way in making sure you stay ahead of the curve as this happens.
Because of this, finding a way to align your brand with a mission or purpose will help you attract new customers and help your current customers feel more excited about shopping with you. It will even help keep your employees happier and more engaged. And the more companies adopt these kinds of purpose driven practices, the more we’ll improve the world around us.