In 2019, UK-based Zeno Group conducted an online survey among more than 8,000 respondents across eight global markets. Their mission was to understand the evolving role of brand Purpose in consumers’ lives. 

The result is the ground-breaking 2020 Strength Of Purpose study, which shows us the ever-growing demand for purpose-driven brands and organisations. 

It proves without a doubt that customers worldwide – regardless of age, gender or location – are choosing brands which lead with purpose over those that do not. 

The study reveals that when consumers believe in a brand’s purpose they are:   

4 times more likely to purchase from the company   

6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism   

4.5 times more likely to champion the company and recommend it to friends and family  

But, while 94% of consumers say it is important that the companies they engage with have a strong purpose, most consumers do not believe companies today have a clear and strong Purpose (only 37% do). 

It has never been more important for companies to not only articulate their purpose, but walk the walk by living and demonstrating their purpose in everything that they do. 

Read on to get the key findings and explore five initiatives to drive a purpose-driven brand and culture.

Consumers and shareholders are demanding a purposeful approach

An overwhelming 94% of consumers said it was crucial that the brands they engage with embody a strong purpose. With growing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns, purpose has become more than just a buzzword – it’s a necessary strategy for businesses to thrive.

Consumers and shareholders are demanding not just profit-driven brands but brands that leverage their influence for the greater good. In a powerful testament to this, 83% of consumers declared that companies should only earn profit if they also deliver a positive impact. This highlights a paradigm shift in the marketplace, where business success is increasingly tied to a firm’s purpose.

94% of consumers say purpose is important. Yet only 37% believe companies today have a clear and strong purpose.

The danger of cancel culture is real

An important implication of this socially conscious economy is the growth of ‘cancel culture,’ which poses a very real threat to companies not aligning with consumer values. In fact, 76% of global consumers said they took punitive action in response to a brand doing something they disagreed with, such as boycotting the brand or supporting a competitor. This underscores the need for businesses to listen and align their purpose with their stakeholders’ values to navigate this minefield effectively.

The Imperative of listening and leading

The study leaves me in no doubt that businesses need to pay attention to the rising call for purposeful brands. This is reflected in the data, which showed that only 37% of consumers believe that companies today have a clear and strong purpose. This highlights a glaring gap between consumer expectations and corporate actions. 

I believe the businesses which close this gap will find themselves holding a strong competitive advantage. 

The study also shows us that purpose is also a top-down construct, with 81% of consumers suggesting that CEOs, founders, or owners are primarily responsible for driving a brand’s purpose. No doubt then that consumers believe that the critical role of championing purpose and ensuring that it permeates every aspect of the business, sits squarely with leaders.

90% of consumers agreed that if a brand or company truly lives by a clear and strong brand purpose, they would be more likely to support them.

Rewards for purposeful businesses

The rewards for businesses that adopt a strong purpose are tangible and substantial. The study reveals that consumers are four to six times more likely to trust, buy from, champion, and protect companies that have a strong purpose. Besides driving brand loyalty, purpose also acts as a shield during challenging times, with consumers six times more likely to support a brand with a strong purpose during crises. 

These findings underscore the fact that companies with a strong purpose enjoy a stronger reputation, brand affinity, and positive business impact. The payoff of a well-defined and executed purpose is therefore substantial.

61% of consumers said that it’s important for a company’s purpose to inspire them.

Implications for SMEs

While large corporations are making strides in purpose-driven business, SMEs would also be wise to take note. In fact, SMEs, due to their agile nature and proximity to the communities they serve, are well-positioned to act on purpose. 

By fostering a strong purpose, SMEs can build stronger relationships with their customers, outpace competition, and reap the benefits of increased trust, purchase intent, and customer advocacy.

Five initiatives to drive a purpose-driven brand and culture

1. Put purpose at the heart of your brand strategy: Build a well-defined, authentic purpose that aligns with their values, mission, and goals. A purpose-driven brand acts as a north star guiding every decision and action in the company.

2. Embed purpose in business strategy: purpose should not just be a statement on a wall. It should be deeply integrated into the company’s business strategy, influencing everything from product development to marketing, operations, and human resources.

3. Communicate purpose effectively: Ensure your purpose sits at the heart of your brand messaging. This enhances transparency and builds a strong brand image that resonates with stakeholders, staff and customers.

4. Lead by example: Leadership plays a crucial role in driving a company’s purpose. Leaders have the opportunity to embody the purpose and set a strong example for their teams to follow.

5. Cultivate a purpose-driven culture: Building a purpose-driven culture is paramount. This involves empowering employees to act in alignment with the company’s purpose and rewarding behaviours that demonstrate commitment to the purpose.

Companies and brands with a stronger purpose are four to six times more likely to benefit from stronger reputation, brand affinity and bottom line results than those with a weak purpose.

Purpose is no longer a nice-to-have

The Zeno Strength Of Purpose study reaffirms the increasing significance of purpose in the business landscape. 

The study highlights not only the risk to organisations which are slow to turn towards their purpose, but also a huge opportunity for those that seize the power of purpose to shape their reputation, influence consumer behaviour, and drive sustainable business success. 

With purpose at their heart, companies can not only grow but also positively impact the world we live in.

You can download the full study here: