Consumers determine where they spend their dollars based on a variety of values, and a recent study revealed the advantages of brands' involvement in social activism. The 2022 Purpose Power Index is a study conducted by the consultancy StrawberryFrog, in partnership with Dynata, a research firm; the organizations say that their research is the first of its kind. StrawberryFrog describes it as the world’s largest first-party data platform for insights, activation and measurement. In sum, the study suggested that there are significant indications that consumers not only value a company’s involvement in social activism, but are beginning to expect it.
StrawberryFrog aims to help clients achieve business outcomes through a human-centered approach called “movement thinking.” As Chip Walker, Head of Strategy at StrawberryFrog, explained to TriplePundit, “[movement thinking] reframes your company or organizational purpose in a way that people can understand and want to participate in.” This approach is said to connect people emotionally to a common cause and lead to action. To that end, StrawberryFrog created the Purpose Power Index to rank leading brands based on the power of their purpose.
In addition, StrawberryFrog calls its approach both “movement strategy” and “movement marketing.” The company suggests that any movement begins with a grievance that needs to be made right. The next steps are distinguishing what needs to change in the future and what stance will be taken to overcome the adversary. From there, a company may design marketing activities that activate the organization. This purpose-driven action is expected to inspire employees and customers alike. As time has evolved, marketing experts have shifted away from the idea that brands ought not take a side in social and political issues. Walker outlined for 3p a few reasons why this idea is outdated.
First, according to Walker, there's “a growing consumer demand that companies play a bigger role in society. Companies are increasingly seen as citizens just like everyone else who have a responsibility in society and are expected to weigh in on issues important to their employees and consumers. Increasingly, it is considered a cop out for companies to have no POV [point of view] on these issues.”
Further, Walker explained to 3p that due to the rise of social media, “The average citizen now knows more about company POVs on important issues in real time and can talk back and either approve or disapprove of their stances.”
Finally, we have to acknowledge the rise of a new generation. As Walker noted, “Multiple research studies have shown that younger people in particular want to buy from companies that share their values, and taking a stand on issues is a way companies are doing that.”
With these points in mind, it is increasingly clear that consumers are looking for brands that share their values. People want to give business to companies that go beyond a public statement and take real action to back up their word. Walker provided some tangible tips for brands wondering how to navigate taking a meaningful stance on social and political causes.
To start, Walker emphasizes the "why." Rather than politicizing company involvement in a cause, it’s better to speak about and take action on issues that could be relevant to the company, employees and its customers.
There are clear advantages and disadvantages for brand involvement in social issues. Part of any brand identity includes core values, and a brand can reinforce its identity and increase customer loyalty through taking a stance on a social issue that relates to its core values. Even if it becomes controversial, the fact that people are talking about the brand at all can drive more awareness about that company or brand. The downside could be potentially offending a portion of customers and employees, so it’s important to ensure that the brand’s involvement within any social issue is intentional and well thought out.
The Purpose Power Index study aims to demonstrate to brands how powerful gaining clarity on their purpose can be. The study concludes that with a clear and common purpose, organization members are inspired to participate in meaningful action. Purpose provides the framework for movement, laying the foundation from which all decisions can originate.
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