People prefer brands with aligned corporate purpose and values

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Andrea Willige, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Consumer brand preferences are driven by an alignment of their values and the brands’ purpose, a new study from Ipsos finds.
  • The link between consumer values and brand purpose has grown significantly in the last 8 years.
  • Reducing environmental harm and standing up for social issues are two of the main expectations consumers have of the businesses they buy from.
  • Consumers in emerging economies are among the most demanding when it comes to businesses’ environmental and social commitments.

Fighting climate change and standing up for social issues: these are the two top expectations consumers have of businesses as they pivot towards brands whose values align with their own.

The findings come from the Ipsos Global Trends 2021 report, which surveys 25 countries. They include developed economies such as the US, UK and Italy and emerging markets in Asia and Africa, including China, Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria.

Today’s consumers are far more concerned about environmental commitment than fair corporate tax payments.
Today’s consumers are far more concerned about environmental commitment than fair corporate tax payments. Image: Ipsos

Across the 25 markets, close to two-thirds (63%) say it is more important to them that companies do their best to fight climate change than pay the right amount of tax. Only a quarter say tax is more important than the climate (27%).

Environmental priority comes out most strongly among respondents in emerging markets, in particular Colombia, Brazil and China, where around 80% expressed that view.

By contrast, respondents in the advanced economies take a more balanced view. In the UK and Denmark, only around half of those polled see the environment as a priority, but 40% still insist on the importance of correct tax payments.

Standing up for social responsibility

Alongside the environment, another major topic for consumers around the globe is a company’s stance on social issues.

Nine out of 10 respondents in Nigeria, the Philippines and Singapore want business leaders to take a stand on social and political issues in their countries. More than 80% of people in India, Kenya and South Africa have the same expectation. But this consumer position is not unique to the developing world: even in France and the US where respondents cared least about corporate social involvement, more than half still highlighted it as a priority.

Ipsos is not alone in identifying these trends: the Edelman Trust Barometer reflected a similar call for CEOs to speak out about societal issues in its 2021 report. Similarly, the latest wave of Taluna’s global trends survey found that more than half of consumers expect brands to drive change in society.

The Ipsos survey found a majority of people want businesses to speak out on major issues.
The Ipsos survey found a majority of people want businesses to speak out on major issues. Image: Ipsos

Personal values drive brand preference

The findings from Ipsos underscore that consumers’ brand choices are strongly aligned with their personal values.

Across all 25 countries surveyed, an average 70% of respondents say they buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles. Again, this trend is particularly strong in some emerging markets, including Nigeria, China, Kenya and the Philippines, where around nine in 10 respondents expressed this view.

Looking back to previous surveys, the link between consumer and brand values has grown stronger in several key markets. Between 2013 and 2021, the share of respondents in the UK and France who tended to buy on the basis of shared personal and brand principles, rose by 17 percentage points to around 60%. Meanwhile, in the US, consumers’ preference for brands with an aligned purpose went up from 50% to 66% in the same timeframe.

One reason for this may be that making socially responsible choices brings satisfaction and emotional comfort to two-thirds of global consumers, as Taluna’s Global Barometer study suggests.

The past 8 years have seen increased consumer awareness of business ethics.
The past 8 years have seen increased consumer awareness of business ethics. Image: Ipsos

Putting ESG at the heart of corporate action

The growing importance of companies’ environmental and social credentials in the minds of their customers aligns with an increasing focus on ESG (environmental, social, governance) criteria to measure performance beyond a firm’s financial balance sheet.

To create a level playing field for the measurement of a company’s ESG performance the World Economic Forum has worked with leading accountancy firms to create a set of universal disclosure rules, the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics.

Since January 2021, over 50 companies have signed up to include the new scorecard in their performance reporting, underlining the importance of their purpose and values to the success of their business.

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