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Marketing and Comms
Consumers Ready to Reward Brands That Take Stands

When Dick’s Sporting Goods bans the sale of assault rifles, or McDonald’s makes a commitment to get 100 percent of its packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025, how does their position in the marketplace change?

A nationwide survey of over 1,000 consumers released today by Shelton Group lends some insight. Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black analyzed how consumers view the growing wave of companies jumping into the political arena. It found that not only do consumers approve of corporate activism, it makes a smart investment for businesses: 64 percent of those who said it’s “extremely important” for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were “very likely” to purchase a product based on that commitment.

The key for brands is authenticity – and communication.

Consumers want brands to stand up for issues in their areas of expertise, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the current political hot topic. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe companies should provide ongoing support for issues that align with the types of products or services they offer, compared to only 13 percent who believe companies should support an issue that is currently in the news.

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To earn greater brand recognition for corporate efforts, Shelton Group recommends that companies look to their primary business first to refine their purpose and prioritize relevant social issues, such as Hellmann’s mayonnaise’s support of cage-free eggs, a key ingredient in its products.

Despite consumers’ strong beliefs that companies should actively support social causes, the survey shows they aren’t well-equipped to remember which companies are engaged in which social issue. The vast majority of respondents could not match brands to their social stance: 92 percent could not correctly match more than half of the brands tested in the survey.

Consumers receive a constant barrage of messages from all sides, which makes the relevance and clarity of what brands stand for and how they communicate that all the more important. And as more and more brands seek to capitalize on the opportunity to cast themselves in a more authentic, meaningful light, the language of “brand purpose” is becoming weaker and more watered down. It’s increasingly essential that these messages stand out, are easy to remember and relate back to the brand sharing them. Furthermore, brands must show – not just tell – stakeholders that they’re committed to their purpose and social issues.

If the message sticks, consumers are more likely to reward the brand by adding their products to their shopping carts than they are to select comparable products. About half (49 percent) of the respondents could name a brand that they became more favorable toward in general. While new or updated products (53 percent) and great customer service (34 percent) were their top two reasons that brand came to mind, social purpose (30 percent) was the third most impactful thing a company could do to increase its brand image.

Consumers were asked how they felt about brands before and after informing them about a stance each brand took. After consumers learned about each brand’s stance on a social issue, the playing field largely leveled out – all but one brand’s favorability scores increased by at least a half point on a scale of 1 to 10. Of the eleven brands tested, eight had scores of 6.5 or lower before respondents learned about their stances, while afterwards 6.5 became the lowest score and the average score across the brands increased to above 7.5.

It is clear that brands have much to gain from taking stances that fit with their organization’s purpose and product or service offerings. The key is effectively communicating those stances and connecting with consumers.


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