Values are important, but just one of many drivers. Consumer behavior is also influenced by factors such as price, convenience, and availability of products. Only a quarter of consumers say they prioritize a brand’s values over price, per an August 2021 YouGov study.
Older consumers are more likely to prioritize price. However, younger consumers are only slightly more likely than their older cohorts to emphasize a brand’s values when making purchase decisions.
Purpose is more likely to be a tiebreaker, according to Drew Train, co-founder and CEO of Oberland, which bills itself as a purpose-driven advertising agency. “If you’ve got a cause partnership on your box and your competitor doesn’t, and you taste pretty much the same and your price is the same, it might break the tie,” Train said.
Worker well-being is consumers’ biggest concern. When it comes to consumers’ expectations of brands, they care most about how companies treat their employees. Perhaps reflecting the early-pandemic publicity about front-line worker treatment and the resurgence of gender and racial justice movements, worker fairness, safety, and equity are the most important issues for brands to address, according to an October 2021 survey by Merkle. These are followed by ethical sourcing and manufacturing and environmental protection.
Consumers place greater emphasis on doing the right thing than on making statements about these issues. Articulating social values and taking a stand on political issues ranked lowest in consumer priorities.
Consumers’ opinions about brand activism differ. Consumers have conflicting expectations about “brandstanding”—brands speaking out on social and political issues.
While younger consumers are much more likely to support brands that take a stand, 42% of US adults agree that “brands need to stay out of social and political issues,” according to a September 2021 Collage Group survey.
Respondents who want brands to engage in social and political issues are split between those who agree brands should always focus on these issues (30%) and those who agree they should focus only on issues related to their products and services (28%).