Consumers prefer brands with a purpose

A clear stance rather than beating around the bush – that’s what most consumers want from companies and brands when it comes to a clear positioning on social and political issues. That is the result of a survey conducted by opinion researchers at YouGov. According to the survey, a total of 66 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that brands should not muzzle or allow themselves to be muzzled and should express their opinion on a topic.

Consumers believe that brands should communicate statements on social issues clearly and transparently. At least 54 percent of those surveyed by YouGov consider this as important. On the other hand, exactly one-third does not consider clear positions from brands and companies as important.

Having opinions and showing engagement

Even more popular than brands that merely pay lip service are brands that go above and beyond and show a willingness to concretely address societal issues. Two-thirds of survey participants view this as good or even very good. However, there are also consumers – nearly a quarter – who would prefer brands to stay away from societal issues.

The overlap between consumers who appreciate brands with a clear stance and brands that are not afraid of taking a stance is remarkable. After all, more than half of the critical consumers place great importance on a perfect match between their ethical standards and those of the products they purchase. They also expect advertisements to be entertaining. This (target) group surpasses the average of the overall population.

Addressing environmental issues is a must

The results of the study confirm that a majority of companies and their brands should show take stance and not beat around the bush when it comes to important social and political issues. However, which specific topics should marketers address, and which should be handled with care?

The YouGov survey also provides answers to this: At the top of the list of topics that consumers want brands to address in their communications are environmental protection issues. Almost one-fourth wants to see this topic featured in the communications of “their” brand.

About one-third wishes that brands address human rights and animal cruelty. Just over a fifth sees education as a central message that brands should convey. 20 percent, on the other hand, want brands to focus more on local issues.

Immigration, an area that inherently has enormous potential for polarization, is a topic that ranks in the middle when it comes to companies taking a stance. Perhaps for this reason – or unfortunately for this reason – only about one-seventh of respondents consider it an acceptable agenda for companies. The same applies to focusing on specific geographical regions or a particular sports team.

Less popular, likely due to being too contentious or risky and full of perceived pitfalls and traps, are gender-specific issues or questions about LGBT rights and religion. Marketing messages related to such engagements should probably not be communicated through the various channels of brands. This applies especially to supporting a particular political party.

When companies and brands take a stance on environmental policy, consumers would most likely tolerate it if names like Amazon, Esprit, Edeka, dm, PayPal, or Deutsche Post did so. Unfortunately, the study does not indicate whether this is to polish their negative image on environmental issues or to promote their good environmental agenda.

A real stance as opposed to a purpose pretext

54 percent of consumers agree that brands tend to use their communication as a stance on social and political issues as opposed to a springboard for increased sales and awareness as opposed to something they truly live. However, 37 percent still believe in brands’ selfless social and political engagement.

The younger consumers are, the less skepticism they have regarding brands merely going through the motions in terms of responsibility and stance, seeing each engagement primarily as an opportunity for target group marketing and greenwashing. On the other hand, the older the consumers, the more distrust they have towards purposes of brands and companies.

When consumer willingness to purchase shifts

When companies clearly position themselves and their brands on social and political issues, the stance automatically comes into focus of public perception. The consequences can be either a “shelling” or a positive boosting of image and sales.

Indeed, 58 percent of surveyed consumers would boycott a brand if it does not communicate in line with their own views. On the other hand, the pull effect with positive feedback is ten points stronger. Because 68 percent would rather lean towards a brand that holds similar views to their own.