WE Brands in Motion study shows brand purpose is facing pressure test

Rebecca Wilson, Executive Vice President International at WE Communications

WE Communications (WE) recently released its latest Brands in Motion global report, “The Bravery Mandate: Make It Real.” The data reveals growing skepticism over whether brands are ultimately delivering on their purpose and environmental, social and governance (ESG) pledges — especially in a world where volatility is the new constant.

How important is brand purpose to today’s consumer?

Partnering with YouGov, WE surveyed consumers in Australia, Germany, India, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the United States (U.S.) to understand their perspectives on brand purpose. Across the globe, stakeholders are demanding that companies step up and offer solutions to urgent challenges such as social injustice and climate change, with “cost of living” chosen as the No. 1 area where brands should be accelerating their efforts.

“Despite mounting pressure, organizations must continue to be guided by brand purpose as their north star,” said WE’s EVP International Rebecca Wilson. “Brands that speak out and act boldly on their causes, and stay the course on their long-term plans to address larger societal issues, will gain a higher market share and attract more talent in the years ahead.”

The expectation for companies to speak and act on large-scale societal issues is here to stay. Survey respondents see brands as one of the most important institutions for driving positive change, right after government and media because of the level influence they poses.

What are the 3 main findings the research showed?

This years research uncovered a lot of things but most importantly were these three;

Practicality takes precedence

People do not expect perfection, but they do want progress all the same. They do not need brands to solve every problem, but they do need them to own the ones they offer to take on. Seventy percent of respondents surveyed prefer that companies focus their multiyear investments on a single cause, rather than support a different issue every year.

Globally, consumers prefer that brands place greater emphasis on practical, values-led goals over ambitious ones, with an ideal balance of 59% practical goals to 41% ambitious ones.

“This focus on practically is not a call for brands to abandon their ambitious plans, as people continue to view companies as important drivers of change. Companies should strive to find a balance between their big-sky and ground-level goals,” Rebecca Wilson also added.

Show your work

The WE Brands in Motion report found that lack of data and data-driven goals is the No. 1 reason consumers become skeptical of brands’ purpose-led claims. As a result, seventy four percent of survey respondents say that brands should be transparent when informing the public about their actions in response to current and emerging societal issues.

Including stakeholders in the process, providing regular updates with hard data, clear metrics & quantifiable results, even when they fall short of expectations — companies can build trust with them along the way. “Stakeholders want to know what happens beyond the pledges and press releases. They demand a front-row seat to your purpose initiatives,” she added.

Leaning into the “S” in ESG

As companies work to create solutions and share progress, they must find the right balance between showing their work and focusing on the human impact. Sharing hard data & accurate net-zero calculations is extremely important, but companies must not get lost in the math.

By telling the stories of how their work is helping — and providing the tangible, human impacts of their efforts — brands can show how effective their efforts are. Survey respondents identified three priorities for brands to invest in: employee well-being is a major key, providing income and employment opportunities, and access to health care for employees.

“Ultimately, people believe that brands help create that better world, but they need proof. Now is the time for companies to make it happen, make it matter, make it real,” Wilson concluded.