Big-Hearted Marketing Brands Place Higher Priority On 'Values' Than Consumers Do

Thirty-five years ago or so, American Express came up with the phrase: “Doing well by doing good.”

Marketers have embraced the idea — so much so that they are now out in front of their customers, judging by Purpose Matters, a study by the American Marketing Association-New York, conducted by Toluna and Charney Research.  

This study posits that people want the brands they engage with to promote “racial equality, corporate citizenship in their communities, and environmental sustainability.”  

But don’t lose any sleep if you’re not promoting these values in your email. Depending on your product, these issues may be the last things on the minds of shoppers. 

Clearly, some companies are more “woke” than their customers. 

For example, 47% of firms say it’s important be a good employer. But only 34% of consumers support that idea. 



In addition, 44% of firms cite corporate citizenship (giving back to community/customers) as an issue, versus 25% of consumers.  

Next is inclusion and diversity in the workplace — 40% of companies see it as an issue to be addressed, compared to 15% of consumers.  

Another issue is sustainability and environmental impact — 39% of companies espouse it, but only 25% of consumers demand it. 

The numbers get lower on both sides as we go down the list of liberal line items:

  • Women’s rights — Companies (35%)/Consumers (16%)
  • Protecting voting rights and democracy — Companies (31%)/ Consumers (20%).
  • Criminal justice reform — Companies (29%)/Consumers (13%)
  • LGBTQ+ issues — Companies (27%)/Consumers(5%)

The study notes that these differences are true in “most categories of businesses, whether by size sector or customer type.”  

Two points. 

First, consumers may be more progressive than this study indicates: They simply don’t let get their social/political views get in the way of buying from brands. Or they may believe that companies are insincere, and that it doesn’t matter what they say their values are. 

Here are the findings on those points. For starters, consumers with higher incomes are more likely to buy from brands they view as purpose-driven:

  • <25k — 15% 
  • 25-50k — 25%
  • 50-125k — 35%
  • 125+ — 51% 

And, those in the upper brackets are willing to pay more to purpose-driven brands: 

  • <25k — 34% 
  • 25-50k — 48%
  • 50-125k —53%
  • 125k+ — 64%

Of high-income people polled, 40% say brands are very sincere, compared to 17% of the total sample. And, overall, 29% believe companies are insincere. 

The willingness to pay more also varies by generation: 

  • Gen Z—70%
  • Millennial—63%
  • Gen X—50%
  • Boomers—24%

What those purposes should be also differs by age group:   

  • Gen Z — Racial equality (35%)
  • Millennials — Good Employer (34%)
  • Gen X — Good Employer (35%)
  • Boomer — Good Employer (40%)

And, they vary by race and ethnicity:

  • White — Good Employer (38%)
  • Black — Racial Equality (32$)
  • Latino — Racial equality (34%)

Email teams might want to run some numbers to determine income levels, gender and racial/ethnic backgrounds, then seek to reflect their company’s value in copy. Or maybe they had better wait until they hear from the C-suite. 

Toluna and Charney Research surveyed 506 consumers and 411 marketers in August 2021. 







2 comments about "Big-Hearted Marketing Brands Place Higher Priority On 'Values' Than Consumers Do".
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  1. Steven Graff from Independent Knowledge, March 23, 2022 at 7:27 p.m.

    Lots to question here in these results. Three that jump out at me are:

    • "47% of firms say it’s important to be a good employer." The headline here is "A Majoirity of Employers Say Being Good to Employees is NOT Important

    • Advertisers target an audience, the values they present should be compard to the economic group they are targeting, not the whole economic spectrum which skews heavily toward economic insecurity and limited descretionary income.  It is well known that the bulk of "values shoppers" are at the upper end of the economic spectrum not in the 56% of Americans who could not afford a $1,000 emergency.

    • " inclusion and diversity in the workplace — 40% of companies see it as an issue to be addressed, compared to 15% of consumers" Perhaps the potential of being named a defendent in a diversity lawsuit has a greater correlation to importance stated rather than a true representation of corporate values.

  2. Bill McClain from Bill McClain Brand Builder, March 24, 2022 at 6:42 p.m.

    "Protecting voting rights and democracy" is a "liberal line item"? Really? So you're saying that conservatives are against voting rights and democracy... In this country and in the free world, shouldn't these "line items" be universally valued?

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