Voting With Their Walletsback to all NEWS

Insights, IP | Nov 12, 2018

When consumers’ belief-driven buying changes the game, a new paradigm has
been established for communicators and marketers.

You’ve heard it before: consumers have always used their wallet to show their power. But today, this takes on a brand-new meaning for both marketers and business leaders.

Now, consumers are quite literally, voting with their purchases: leveraging the impact their buying decisions can have on not only their life, but on society at large. And this is, simply put, changing the game.

Don’t believe me? Just ask them.

As revealed in our 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, the verdict is indisputable: belief-driven buying has gone mainstream. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position and practices on a social or environmental issue. This behavior is no longer isolated to the prerogative of Millennials or more affluent and educated consumers. Picking a brand based on its values, purpose, and ability to stand by and deliver against those values is now a shared reality for all consumers alike.

What does this mean for marketers?

In a world where consumers’ shopping baskets represent their beliefs, it’s important to understand what marketers need to manage. Let’s start with the facts.

  • 64% of people say that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it (2018 Edelman Trust Barometer).
  • 53% of people agree that brands are better equipped to be a force for change than the government, and 46% think brands have better ideas than government for solving their country’s problems (2018 Edelman Earned Brand).

This is a big deal. And it means that brands and businesses are expected to play an active—or perhaps even proactive—role in sorting challenges facing the world, society, and environment that their consumers believe they are best-equipped to help solve.

And in the age of the irrevocable digital transformation that consumes today’s operating environment, the power of consumers has never been greater, not just because of their wallets but also because of their smartphones. They can share their views in the click of a button, and campaign to millions in a millisecond. In a breath, they can search, find, and buy a new brand – unknown a minute before – that better aligns with their values. Or, take one down.

So, what do we do?

Brand love is no longer enough to guarantee a thriving relationship with consumers and protect from disruption. Even when a consumer has purchased, used, and even loved a brand for years, until they are fully committed to it, the brand has yet to unlock the full power of all the efforts and money it is investing into building that bond.

Today, communicating on a brand’s societal commitment is just as effective at driving purchase decisions as communicating on product features. Beyond commercials, this affects the entire customer journey and brand ecosystem, across all touch points, starting from point of sale: 60% agree brands should make it easier for them to see what their values and positions are on important issues when about to make a purchase.


To reach this higher and more rewarding relationship, marketers will need to rethink how they engage with their existing and future consumers. To break the growing indifference in a world saturated by content and noise, to get heard, successful brands will be the ones who operate in culture, constantly earning consumers’ attention by engaging with them about what they care about, not what marketers have to say.

Interrupting them and pushing their way into individuals’ content consumption flow can be highly damaging for brands if not done properly and is 4 times as likely to be described as a negative interaction and to drive negative sentiment towards the brand.

This not only has critical consequences for how brands define themselves, their offering, and their role in consumers’ lives and society at large, it also stresses the need to rethink the link and role the corporate organizations behind those brands play.


Amongst belief-driven buyers, 87% of those committed to a brand also know and trust the corporate brand behind it. This is not dissimilar to our romantic relationships. The more serious it gets, the more likely we are to check-out the rest of the family before we fully commit. Are the parents of our loved one – the corporate brand – respectable and trustworthy?  Do his or her siblings – the sister brands – have good reputations and good press? Are corporations ready to provide their brands with the solid trust foundations required in this new cultural and societal context? As brands, think of your relationship with consumers as a marriage, not a fling.

The long-time divide between marketing, “you look after the brands and consumers”, and communications, “you look after internal and external corporate stakeholders”, functions is coming to an end. They now share a complex and dynamic ecosystem. The leading base of the belief-driven buyers can do as much harm to a brand’s corporate reputation as its bottom line. Consider the fact that corporate communications – once a top-down, one directional form of communication – has been irrevocably upended by the rise of social media, and with that the rise of empowered consumers and citizen activists. Employees are now one of the most trusted voices of the business amongst the general public. Can the change we are experiencing with the rise of belief-driven buyers help us foresee the future of employees? By 2025, Millennials will comprise three-quarters of the Global Workforce. Are they leading the way to belief-driven employees?

They just might be. So, as communicators and marketers, we must accept and work within this transformative landscape. We must understand that having a purpose and engaging with audiences with speed, agility, consistency, and authenticity is only part of the equation – it’s just the table-stake. Those that embrace this new paradigm, and constantly evolve to meet their consumers where they are, focused on moving from love to commitment with trust at the core, with a purpose that consumers can see, touch, and feel makes a difference, will lead.

Cecile Nathan-Tilloy is Managing Director, Global Client Relationships for Edelman Intelligence, based in our London office.

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