57% of Consumers Will Boycott a Brand That Doesn’t Share Their Social Beliefs

Consumers are more likely to care than three years ago, per Edelman study

Marketers must keep in mind their customers' opinions on culture and policy.
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What does it take for brands to maintain relationships with consumers? That’s the central question of the third Earned Brand report from public relations firm Edelman, which found that 57 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.

Consumers are also 30 percent more likely to make purchase decisions about a brand based on a brand’s beliefs than they were just three years ago, according to the report. Edelman surveyed 14 countries and heard from 14,000 people to find out the status of consumers’ brand relationships.

“People really are buying on belief, and brands have a huge potential to gain if you do share your belief and act out on those beliefs,” said Mark Renshaw, global chair of brand at Edelman. “We really think this is an opportunity for brands, and it’s something that all brands should be looking at proactively versus reactively.” 

Half of the survey respondents said they make purchase decisions based on a brand’s beliefs, and 67 percent said they purchased a brand for the first time because of its stance on a touchy social issue. Consumers also care if a brand doesn’t talk about a social issue that they feel like the brand should talk about, with 65 percent saying they wouldn’t buy a brand due to its silence on an issue.

When brands are vocal about an issue, it helps their relationship with consumers. According to the data, 23 percent of the survey respondents said they are willing to pay more for that brand’s products (as much as a 25 percent premium); that they would advocate and defend the brand (48 percent); and, that they would be loyal to the brand, buy it exclusively and more frequently (51 percent).

But the results of the survey aren’t meant to push brands into politics. “We don’t believe it’s about politics,” said Renshaw. “In fact, we would say stay away from politics. But the issues that are being discussed in society are things like the environment, equality and immigration. Obviously, sometimes [those] issues have a political aspect, but the issues themselves [are] what brands should be focused on—not the political sides of those issues.” 

Renshaw points to the work Edelman assisted with for Heineken, “Worlds Apart,” as a successful way for a brand to address an issue consumers care about. “The brand idea was to open your world and we were able to bring people together kind of activating the open the world idea with the ‘Worlds Apart’ program and the product, meaning Heineken, is at the front and center of that,” said Renshaw. “So it’s not just weighing an issue in society right now but actually putting the product as a core part of bringing people together.” 

Other intriguing points from the study include:

  • Younger consumers are more likely to care about what a brand says and does with 60 percent of millennials, 53 percent of Gen Z and 51 percent of Gen X noting that brands beliefs matter when it comes to purchasing decisions.   

  • 66 percent of American millennial respondents said they make purchasing decisions based on brands beliefs.
  • Higher-earning consumers are also more likely to care. Of the consumers that earn within the top quartile, 57 percent say they care about brands’ beliefs.

  • Consumers in developing countries like China (73 percent) and India (65 percent) are more likely to care.

  • As for established markets, like France (50 percent) and the U.S. (47 percent), roughly half of consumers say it impacts their purchasing decision.