Learning from the Edelman Earned Brand Study


Learning from the Edelman Earned Brand Study

On the back of the success of Nike’s Just Do It anniversary campaign, public relations firm Edelman has run the numbers: consumers all over the world would much rather spend their money on brands that take a stand on social issues, rather than brands that avoid controversy.

According to the 2018 Earned Brand study, “belief-driven buyers” are all the rage this year, with sixty-four percent of respondents to the survey saying they buy from, or boycott, brands based on the company’s position on a social or political issue.

These buyers make up the majority in every market, age group and income level surveyed; sixty-seven percent of survey respondents bought from a brand for the first time due to the company’s position on a controversial social issue, while a further sixty-five percent said they would deliberately boycott a brand for staying silent on an issue it was obligated to speak out on.

Indeed, these belief-driven buyers are deeply connected to the brands they purchase from and are much more likely to stay loyal to and defend, a brand than the average customer. The survey heard from 8,000 people in eight countries, spanning the US, UK, Germany, and Japan.

The trend certainly doesn’t appear limited to American consumers. In Japan, 60 percent of respondents described themselves as belief-driven buyers, up to a whopping 21 points from 2017. The UK similarly saw a 20 percent leap from the same year, with 57 percent of survey respondents identifying as belief buyers. 

Even with the smallest increase of the countries surveyed, Chinese consumers are still buying with their hearts: last year, 73 percent identified as belief buyers, this year, that number reached 78 percent.

Moreover, the trend of the belief buyer isn’t just a phenomenon of the socially-aware millennial. In 2017, 53 percent of people aged 35 to 54 cared about a brand’s social stance; this year, that number jumped to 67 percent. In the same period, the percentage of belief buyers aged 55 and older leaped from 38 percent to 56 percent.

“[Consumers] want to buy on beliefs. They want brands to stand up on issues that matter to them. Two-thirds literally say, I will buy a brand or I will boycott a brand if they stand up on issues,” said CEO Richard Edelman.

The implications of this revelation for business are huge, but perhaps it is the public sector that stands the most to learn from this year’s Edelman study. When it comes to social issues, some 46 percent of respondents viewed brands as having better ideas than government, while more than half saw brands as more capable of solving social ills than government authorities.

While we are, hopefully, a while away from a Nike tick adorning the White House, the message from the Edelman study is clear: consumers haven’t put their heads in the sand, and are making their opinions known with their wallets. When it comes to social issues, the savvy company is the one that articulates its position on the political spectrum.

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