Has Purpose-Driven Marketing Become Less Relevant to Consumers?

5 04 2023

Photo: Unsplash / AbsolutVision

By Tom Ryan from retailwire.com • Reposted: April 5, 2023

A new study finds over 57 percent of U.S. consumers cannot name a brand that is making a difference when it comes to either the environment or diversity.

Slightly fewer, 54 percent, could not name a brand that gave back to the community, according to GfK’s first “Purpose Impact Monitor” study.

The study found that three-quarters of generic ads captured the attention of consumers. The proportion dropped to two-thirds for cause-focused ads.

“The truth today is that purpose-driven efforts and campaigns have become commonplace – even mundane,” said Eric Villain, client solutions director for Marketing Effectiveness at GfK, in a statement. “If a brand were to completely shun causes, that would likely be noticed; but supporting them is not a differentiator anymore. This means marketers and brands need to work harder – in keeping with their brand essence and the category – to really make an impression with their purpose efforts.”

Recent research from CivicScience found 73 percent of U.S. adults agree that a company’s “social consciousness and overall kindness” is either “very important” (29 percent) or “somewhat important” (44 percent) when choosing where to shop and what to buy.

The importance peaked in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests and the presidential election. Sentiment “softened over the past year, likely as price sensitivity and economic concerns grew.”

The socially responsible marketing consultancy Good.Must.Grow’s “Tenth Annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index” found the momentum for conscious consumerism and charitable giving surged to a record high of 51 on a scale of 100 in 2021 as the pandemic “reenergized the pursuit of purpose.” It eased to 49 in 2022.

The decline in 2022 was attributed to inflation as 46 percent of Americans said the cost of socially responsible goods and services prevented them from buying more.

“I believe this year’s data demonstrates several things, one of which is the tension involved with following through on good intentions in the face of economic pressures,” said Heath Shackleford, founder of Good.Must.Grow. “Those of us working for the growth of socially responsible brands must continue to prioritize competitive pricing.”

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GfK Green Gauge®: Green is going mainstream, but don’t expect a premium.

24 09 2012

In their new Green Gauge research released today, GfK reports significant progress in the developing green culture in the United States, but also highlight findings that many consumers are increasingly resistant to pay more for “green products”.

In a statement, Timothy Kenyon–Director for the Green Gauge survey–said, “Green awareness is indeed pervasive – but consumers can perceive ‘green’ claims as a negative in some contexts.  For example, while terms like organic and recyclable have strong positive resonance, they are often associated with higher prices. Understanding consumers’ triggers and the limits of their commitment to green action is essential for marketers and researchers alike.”

The study shows that 73% of US consumers have purchased a product made from organic materials in the past 12 months. Categories that have seen notable increases since 2007 in organic buying include food, household cleaning, apparel, and pet food and supplies.

In addition, 93% of Americans say they have done something to conserve energy in their households in the past year, and 77% have done something to save household water during the same timeframe.

The study also reports that digital media are helping to amplify this green awareness:

29% of smartphone users have turned to an app in the past year to help reduce their environmental impact – a figure that jumps to 44% for Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) and 38% for Generation Y (ages 23 to 32).  Most-cited types of apps used include public transportation timetables and home energy monitors.

In addition, 18% of consumers say that social networking sites are a “major source” of green information for them (up four points from 2011), with another 33% citing it as a “minor source.”

GfK points out that green awareness and engagement do not necessarily translate to green purchase. Compared to 2008, the proportion of US consumers willing to pay more for environmentally friendly alternatives has gone down in a variety of key areas — from cars that are less polluting to the air (down from 62% to 49%) to energy efficient lightbulbs (down from 70% to 60%).  (examples are cited below in this infographic from the Advertising Age article linked below).

According to GFK, The Green Gauge® Report is the only nationwide, long-term syndicated study of consumer attitudes and behaviors towards the environment. Green Gauge gives marketers an exclusive look at how America’s concern for environmental issues can affect brands and organizations.

Read a related article to the research in Advertising Age here.