By Sara Harper

A newly released survey of consumers finds that well over a majority around the world (including in the U.S.) now consider the social mission of a brand to be a critical attribute that affects their purchasing decisions.

The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study finds that nearly 2/3 or 64% of global consumers will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue. As the study points out, this is a “staggering increase of 13 points from last year.”

Fully 59% of consumers in the U.S. (up 12 points from last year) are now characterized as “Belief-Driven Buyers” by the study author.

And it’s not just one country or one age group making up this trend, the belief-driven mindset is now mainstream:

“Belief-Driven Buyers are now the majority in every market surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels. Almost as many consumers aged 35-to-54 buy on belief as 18-to-34-year-olds, and the most impressive gains come from the older cohort, with an 18-point increase among people 55 years old and up.”

Other key findings:

  • Consumers are just as likely to express purchase intent after seeing a values-led communication (43%) as they are after seeing a product-focused message (44%).
  • Values-based messaging (32 percent) was also more effective than product-focused communications (26 percent) in driving advocacy.
  • Almost 40% of people surveyed said they bought a product for the first time for the sole reason that they appreciated the brand’s position on a controversial societal or political issue

These findings should make every business take notice and seriously consider the ROI benefits of adding a mission beyond profit to their business.

Gone are the days when creating a mission-based brand was purely an affair of the heart. In a world where thousands of new natural food products emerge bi-annually at natural food trade shows — having a credible and on-trend mission is arguably, necessary for finding a way to stand out from the crowded “better-for-you” field.

The Wall Street Journal captured the impact of the study well in their article on on October 2, 2018 with the headline: “Consumers Believe Brands Can Help Solve Societal Ills”

“Mr. Edelman says consumers are looking to corporations to help fix social ills, as many have lost trust in institutions and government. More than half of those polled (53%) believe that brands can do more to solve problems in society than government.”

A Better Mission-Based Model

So, we’ve established that creating a way for your brand to help consumers solve problems through their purchase of your product is a great value-add for your brand. Now the question becomes, what is the best way to achieve this goal in a cost-efficient matter.

I’m so glad you asked 🙂

The traditional thinking about how to do this is to send money to non-profit organizations to do good on your brand’s behalf. The thinking goes something like this — these groups are dedicated to their mission, not to profit, so they can do the most good.

I’d like you to re-think that proposition.

Non-profits are very good at some things, for sure. Education, for one. Lobbying perhaps, for another. But when it comes to actually solving complex problems, like climate change, how can a non-profit actually make change on the ground?

Non-profits are not “making” products — which is where the majority of environmental impact comes from on behalf of all of us who consume those products. If you are not the ones with control over the problem, how can you be the ones to solve it?

Instead, the model we created at Grounded Growth, enables your brand to empower the people who have the ability to reduce the problem — on the ground, right now.

Specifically, I’m talking about farmers who, by altering the way they farm, can reduce greenhouse gases right now. Why aren’t they doing this already you might ask? Well, it costs them money – and they have to compete against other farmers around the world, who don’t have to bear this cost.

The shocking truth is that it doesn’t take a lot of money to bring down the barriers preventing a significant number of farmers from adopting these practices. But it does take giving the money directly to the farmer — and not to a non-profit. A non-profit can educate the farmer about what they should do all day long, but at the end of the day, most of their models do not allow them to actually help the farmer pay the cost of actually doing the desired practice.

Even if a non-profit does provide grants to farmers to make change on the ground, few of them really know how best to partner with farmers. It takes really knowing the obstacles a farmer faces, and developing a process to overcome them to achieve better outcomes both for the farmer and for the environment.

My team, which includes an actual farmer, knows these obstacles and solutions well. We have leveraged multiple strengths to create a partnership process that can scale up quickly — and enable your brand to authentically connect directly to a farmer that can empower your consumers to fight climate change by purchasing your product.

To learn more about this promising model, please check out our case study on our blog.

Consumers believe brands can solve tough problems better than government. We are so excited about the work we are doing with food companies and farmers to prove them right.