Australian consumers more likely to purchase from purpose-driven brands

Paul Mottram, Regional President, Asia Pacific, Zeno

New research from Zeno Group shows that the pandemic has made a clear and compelling purpose even more essential for businesses and brands in Australia.

The survey was conducted in June 2021 targeting more than 5,100 consumers across Australia, China, India, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Zeno Group survey revelations in Australia

  • 89% of Australian consumers are more likely to support a brand making a profit if they have a positive impact on the world
  • 88% seek out brands with a strong purpose however, only 28% believe most brands have a strong purpose, revealing a significant – and costly – “purpose gap”
  • Australian consumers are 4 x more likely to purchase from purpose-driven brands

“A perennial challenge for marketers has been to prove that brand or corporate purpose has a tangible, commercial benefit. This research shows conclusively that purpose pays off, and also reveals how,” said Paul Mottram, Regional President, Asia Pacific, Zeno.

“The prioritisation by consumers of sustainable and ethical business practices reaffirms that environment, social and governance (ESG) efforts are worthwhile.”

“Not only because shareholders demand it, but also because when communicated effectively, consumers will reward these initiatives with incremental sales, recommendations and loyalty.”

Purposeful brands are rewarded

The study finds that Australian consumers are more likely to recommend, trust, protect and purchase from brands or companies with a strong purpose over those with a weaker one. 

When a brand is perceived to have a strong Purpose, Australian consumers are

  • 5.4 x more likely to recommend (champion) the brand
  • 5.2 x more likely to trust the brand
  • 4.4 x more likely to support that brand in a challenging moment
  • 4.0 x more likely to purchase the brand.

Permission to profit

After rating dozens of brands across various segments on their perceived strength of purpose, Zeno asked Australian consumers to share their expectations when it comes to a brand’s pursuit of profit versus their impact on the world. The report found,

  • 89% of consumers are more likely to support a brand making a profit if they have a positive impact on the world
  • 87% of consumers said if a brand or company truly lives by a clear and strong brand purpose, they would be more likely to continue to support them if they were to make a misstep or receive public criticism
  • 73% of consumers say companies should only earn a profit if they also have a positive impact on the world overall.

“The significant, positive relationship between strength of purpose and business results makes leading with purpose an imperative for business success.”

“Consumers in Australia effectively give the permission to profit to those companies that not only have a strong purpose, but articulate and communicate it well,” said Alison DaSilva, Managing Director, Purpose and Impact, Zeno.

Beyond purchase consideration, the survey reveals additional effects of a strong purpose on business and brand performance. Overall, 68% of respondents said they consider a brand or company’s purpose when considering a job or employment with that brand.

The purpose deficit in Australia

Last year, 88% of consumers said they desire or look for brands that have a strong purpose.

When compared to the proportion of consumers who believe that most brands have a strong purpose, however, a significant deficit emerges. In Australia, only 28% believe that most brands have a strong purpose, revealing a significant purpose gap in the region.

“It’s clear that there is much room for improvement when it comes to brands communicating their purpose to Aussie consumers,” said Sarah Littlefair, GM, Zeno Group in Australia.

“Brands need to step up to keep pace with consumer expectations, or they run the risk of losing preference, reputation, loyalty and sales.”

Purpose must come from the top

Consumers in Australia expect senior corporate leaders to walk the talk. When asked who was responsible for driving brand purpose for a company or brand, 81% of consumers surveyed primarily look to the executive leadership, such as a CEO, Founder, or Owner.

This demand goes beyond the boardroom. 69% said it is extremely or very important for leaders of brands or companies to embody brand purpose and mission in their personal life.

“The inescapable conclusions of Zeno’s new research are that brand purpose is here to stay, and its value to businesses in Australia is more compelling than ever before,” said Littlefair.

“By first recognising consumer demand for brands with strong purpose, and then responding with relevant and authentic actions, Aussie businesses have a significant opportunity to gain in terms of reputation, sales and market share and lead the recovery.”

Demand for purpose is deepening and cross-generational

Consumers in Australia express an even stronger desire for brands to demonstrate a clear purpose. Over 60% of consumers think it is more important for brands and companies to have a strong purpose, compared to before COVID-19 and the events of 2020.

In APAC, the demand for brands with a strong purpose is evident across all generations.

Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X feel more strongly than their older counterparts that purpose is now more important than ever. Notably 68% of seniors, however, say that it has become more important for brands to have a strong purpose over the past year.