Today's customers increasingly choose principle over products.
And as retailers and brands fight to keep up with customer demand and protect their online reputation, a movement has been rapidly building momentum, and it’s one that brands can’t afford to turn a blind eye to. That is, belief-driven buying.
Why standing for something is essential to protect your brand’s online reputation
65% of global consumers are making belief-driven purchases - that’s a 50% increase on 2017 figures, as found by Edelman in its 2018 Earned Brand report. In fact, there wasn’t a single market surveyed by the world’s largest PR firm, where they found that consumers weren’t making purchasing decisions based on a brand’s mission.
So what exactly is belief-driven buying?
And why is it so important for brands to start taking a stand in order to protect their reputation?
Quite simply, more and more consumers are effectively voting with their wallets. Choosing principle over product. Being loyal to the brands that align with their own beliefs and values and shunning the ones that don’t.
Take Nike, for example. When the brand’s now infamous Colin Kaepernick’ campaign launched in September 2018, with the tagline “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” (referencing the football player’s kneeling protest during the US National Anthem), sales increased by over 30%.
Now, you might be thinking ‘great - but that’s Nike, a brand with a multi-million-dollar marketing budget, not to mention PR and crisis management teams at the ready. Nike can withstand controversy.’ But what about smaller businesses? By making a bold statement, you risk alienating the customer base that you’ve spent so much time (not to mention, money) building up, right?
Well, you’d be forgiven for wanting to take the ‘never talk about politics, religion, or money in mixed company’ stance when it comes to your business, but on the other hand, 60% of consumers want brands to make it easier for them to see its values and position on important issues at the point of sale. Oh, and belief-driven buying isn’t something that you can chalk down to being a trend amongst millennials either. The 35-54 consumer age bracket are just as interested in buying based on principle as their 18-34 counterparts. And those aged 55 and up are moving swiftly in that direction too, with a reported 18% increase in belief-focused buying from 2017.
Clearly, playing it safe is no longer an option. But how exactly can brands start to weave their beliefs into everything they do?
Not an easy feat, by any stretch of the imagination! However, there are ultimately three vital things to keep in mind when protecting your online reputation:
Being a purpose-driven brand does not have to mean being a controversial brand
Authenticity is key
If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk
So, why does your brand exist (aka why did you go into business in the first place)? Was it to solve a problem? Was it to make a difference in people’s lives? What is your company’s mission - what constitutes ‘moving the dial’ for your business? (Besides profit, obviously.)
These are the things that you should be talking to your audience about. While it’s always useful to know who your existing customer base is, this is really all about looking inward. Not looking for a cause that might resonate with your audience and shouting about it from the rooftops. Quite the opposite, in fact. Look at what actually makes your brand tick, and your customers will undoubtedly fall into place from there.
Protecting your online reputation through purpose-driven branding doesn’t necessarily have to be about making a bold statement against a corrupt politician, either. It could be about making a commitment to reduce your packaging waste by X% over a specific time period. Or maybe it’s through supporting local community initiatives, such as sport, education, etc.
Smoothie and juice company Innocent is a great example of this. The brand launched their ‘big knit’ campaign in 2008, whereby novice and seasoned knitters around would create tiny wool hats to sit atop their juice bottles, and for each one sold, Innocent would donate 30 cents to Age Action. To date, they have raised over €150,000 in support of elderly communities in Ireland.
Another great instance of a brand taking a stand is US underwear and swimsuit brand: Aerie, who in 2014, vowed to stop retouching the models used in their campaigns, as well as feature women with all body types, from various religious backgrounds, and with different disabilities. The body-positivity movement has gone from strength to strength, with Aerie launching #AerieREAL role models in January 2019, recruiting 8 public figures from completely different walks of life to champion the brand and promote diversity and inclusion.
These brands clearly illustrate the three key essential elements of showcasing a purpose-driven brand. They aren’t controversial for the sake of it. They are authentic. And, most importantly...they talk the talk.
Because there’s no doubt about it - there is an immense opportunity for retailers to capitalise on belief-driven buying in order to protect their online reputation. This means it’s inevitable that many brands will try to cut corners and hop on the trendiest, or seemingly most-lucrative bandwagon to convert as many new customers as possible. But as with most things in this life, the cream rises to the top, and while retention is something that can often be bought, loyalty, on the other hand is something that must be earned.
Simply put, your brand must live its beliefs. Imagine if Innocent didn’t have any employees over the age of 30, or Aerie only hired 5’8’’ models to work in their bricks and mortar stores? Remember, talk is cheap, so if your company is going to lean into a more purpose-driven approach, your brand beliefs have to ooze from every nook and cranny of your entire organisation - from operations, to customer services, to marketing, and everything in between.
While there are undoubtedly challenges that come with adopting a purpose-first strategy for your business, it really isn’t a question of weighing up the pros and cons. By tapping into the ‘why’ of your brand, you have a real opportunity to not only strengthen your existing customer base, but also to resonate with a brand new one.
So, are you ready to stand for something?
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Michelle McSweeney, Content Marketing Manager at Kooomo. Kooomo works with clients to maximise all digital sales channels globally by combining their expertise and a next-generation platform in a proven and affordable digital commerce cloud solution.