Politics and Purpose: The US Consumer Response to Purpose-Driven Marketing Across the Political Spectrum

23 01 2023

By Eric Block • Posted: January 23, 2023

In a landmark research report published by Sustainable Life Media, Maddie Kulkarni of PepsiCo reports on the response to Purpose Driven Marketing by groups who self-identify as Democrats, Republican or Independent Voters.

In the report, Kulkarni writes:

“As a marketer, given the high drama of the US midterm elections this November, and the recent criticism of “woke marketing” by some activists and politicians, I wanted to investigate how consumers felt about brands engaging in purpose-driven marketing. Purpose-driven marketing — also known as “sustainability marketing” or “social impact marketing” — speaks to a brand’s attempt to engage its consumers on a social or environmental issue. I wondered: Does identifying with a certain political party influence whether consumers think more highly or more disapprovingly of a brand taking on a cause?

To find out, I turned to data gathered from consumers’ reactions to about 50 purpose-driven advertising campaigns tested with over 25,000 consumers in the last two years through the Sustainable Brands®’ (SBAd Sustainability Awareness Platform (ASAP) insights tool. Developed in 2020 when several global brands came together under the SB Brands for Good initiative, the ASAP tool was designed to create a way to measure (across industries and with a standardized set of metrics) how effective purpose-driven advertising campaigns were in driving consumer behavior change around environmental and social issues.”

The key findings in the report included the following:

• Democrats have a significantly more favorable opinion of a brand after seeing its sustainability campaign, over Republicans and Independents.

There are similarities and differences in the sustainability issues Democrats and Republicans most care about.

• US women like seeing brands that support women.

• Sustainability campaigns are currently most resonating with Millennials.

• Targeted cohorts appreciate a brand’s effort to reach them; though with the Hispanic cohort, there is room to improve ad effectiveness.

• Environmentally focused ads score higher on Effectiveness than socially focused ads.

In summarizing key insights that effective marketers approach to communication, Kulkarni reports the following conclusions:

What are the implications from this research for the marketing industry?
  1. We can use the insights of this research to create strategic media plans that are responsible and take on a social impact lens. At a minimum, our ads need to be accurate, honest and respectful — this is a basic requirement. But by understanding our target consumers, we can not only create content that resonates with them and helps them feel seen; we can also leverage media’s targeting abilities to deliver our content to an audience that normally would not be exposed to it. This would be an effort to develop understanding across people of different backgrounds and help a broader audience “see another side.” Note this strategy might come with some risk if the “other side” does not agree with your point of view; it is best to prepare for this possibility.
  2. To drive creative ad effectiveness around sustainability storytelling, we should continue to focus on Influence, Credibility, Actionability and Talkability metrics. Demonstrating Influence and garnering Credibility with a campaign comes from research, engaging with partners, and spending meaningful time and resources on a cause. Creating an Actionable campaign comes from being clear on how consumers can use our productsto lead more sustainable lifestyles. And Talkability, the notion that people want to share and talk about the campaign, comes from campaigns having a creative spark that surprises and delights the consumer.
  3. Given that our creative ad effectiveness scores are generally lower on socially focused behaviors than on environmentally focused behaviors, we should study how we can improve storytelling when it comes to the former.
  4. We can study how different generational cohorts connect with sustainability issues, so we can develop content that resonates with each group’s unique life stage.
To read the original research findings, follow this link to the Sustainable Life Media report here:https://sustainablebrands.com/read/marketing-and-comms/politics-and-purpose-the-us-consumer-response-to-purpose-driven-marketing-across-the-political-spectrum
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