Published 2 years ago.
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In its latest research to understand consumer expectations of responsible brands, Porter Novelli used social psychology to unpack why consumers prefer Purpose-driven brands — and the importance of strong storytelling to complement sound business strategies.
In the past few years, consumer demand and preference for brands that align with their values has become undeniable — and more and more studies are proving it:
Now, Porter Novelli’s newly released Purpose Perception
study delves into social psychology to get to the root of how consumers react to
Purpose-driven brands, vs conventional brands, on an emotional level.
For nearly 30 years, Porter Novelli has conducted Purpose research to understand
consumer expectations of responsible brands. In 2019, it implemented biometrics
technology to understand how consumers psychically and emotionally respond to
For this study, it used social psychology to build on the biometrics research —
and a research methodology called Implicit Association Testing (IAT) to
uncover our automatic, unbiased perceptions of brands — to further unpack why
consumers prefer Purpose-driven brands. The findings add another layer to the
business case for Purpose — and the importance of strong storytelling to
complement sound business strategies.
Purpose creates stronger mental connections: When evaluating brands,
respondents made higher (aka faster) associations between brands and Purpose
attributes (ex: responsible, compassionate, ethical, inclusive) versus
functional attributes (ex: reliable, convenient, affordable, practical) —
suggesting when consumers store information about brands, they make stronger
mental connections with Purpose words. So, Purpose-driven brands stick in
consumers’ minds in a way other brands just don’t. In fact, 78 percent of
exit survey respondents indicated they are more likely to remember a company
with a strong Purpose.
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Purpose brand attributes trigger beneficial action: Marketers’ main job
is to not only inspire goodwill and strong reputations, but also drive
action. To more directly connect brand association with desired consumer
the research then explored what types of brand attributes most motivate
consumers to take specific actions. The research uncovered that, when
compared to functional attributes, Purpose attributes were more likely to
drive certain desired behaviors. Test respondents were more likely to
indicate Purpose as the motivator for behaviors — including deciding which
brands to trust, work for, be loyal to and, ultimately, form deeper
connections with. This reinforces that Purpose can act as a signal to
consumers to engage with a brand in myriad ways.
Purpose drives purchase and impulse: In a grab-and-go situation, Purpose
prevails. 66 percent of respondents said they consider a company’s Purpose
when making purchasing decisions, and 62 percent said a company’s Purpose is
an important factor when making a quick or impulse purchase. This shows that
Purpose is a differentiator not only on the shelves, but in a brand’s
Overall, the study found that when a brand is Purposeful, it connects with
consumers on an emotional level — while a brand that is merely functional
connects with consumers on a rational level. We feel Purpose automatically, but
have to think through function rationally — which means Purpose becomes more
deeply embedded into our psyche and, ultimately, our purchasing decisions.
But the findings also show that merely defining and embedding a corporate
alone will not necessarily win customer loyalty — brands must actively
communicate their Purpose, too; and authentically embed it into their brand
ethos. However, a caveat for marketers: As consumers become more educated on the
nuances of being a responsible organization and take the time to do their own
research, they will be better equipped to more correctly identify a
Purpose-driven brand over a brand that relies on strong marketing and great
Read more findings from Porter Novelli’s Purpose Perception study here
Published Feb 26, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET