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Nearly two-thirds of consumers now buy on belief, claims Edelman’s research

What your brand really stands for, and the impact is has on society is increasingly important if you want loyal customers. According to the 2018 Earned Brand study from PR firm Edelman, nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world now buy on belief, an increase of 13 points since 2017. These buyers will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on political, social or environmental issues they care about.

Key findings

  • Belief-driven buyers are now the majority in every market surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels
  • Almost as many consumers aged 35-to-54 buy on belief as 18-to-34-year-olds
  • The largest gains come from the older age group, with an 18-point increase among people aged 55 years and over.

Discussing why these findings are so important to PROs, Thom Holliday, marketing manager at Edelman says: “This is significant to PR practitioners because it shows that taking a stand is not just a ‘nice to have’. You’ll need to be aware that your brand is expected to take a relevant position, which is true to your brand’s ethos, and that your brand is also a legitimate authority on that topic.

“Importantly, you must still earn this position. Great advertising and marketing are not enough. You’ve got to show – not tell. Your stand must be aligned to your brand’s audience and what matters to them, then you must act to enhance it by solving a problem or elevating a benefit.”

In terms of other ways to capture hearts and minds, Holliday advises: “Using product and innovation messaging as selling points are no longer the only compelling way to engage your audience. Values-led communication is now essential, too. We found that brand values communications (44%) are just as likely to drive buyer intent as product communications (43%). This shows that a mix of brand values communications and product communications can work together to help drive sales.”

Holliday also highlights the importance of brands to be politically active: “The research shows that 54% of people believe it is easier to get brands to address social problems than government.

“This isn’t just happening within the UK. It is a global trend. In China, Johnson & Johnson has worked to help end myopia in children; in the UK, Nissan has helped communities clean up their beaches; and in the US, the CEO of Levi Strauss has taken a stand in support of gun control measures.”

Holliday concludes: “Those brands who don’t use their resources to lead positive societal change will be left behind by their competitors. Yet – to come back to the first point – a brand must have earned their right to lead on these issues. Consumers will, naturally, see straight through flash-in-the-pan initiatives.”


The 2018 Earned Brand study covers eight markets: Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and the US. The fieldwork is split between an online survey of 8,000 respondents (1,000 per market) and a mobile survey of 32,000 respondents (4,000 per market).

Nearly 2 in 3 Now Belief-Driven Buyers
Do you choose, switch, avoid or boycutt a brand based on its stand on societal issues? (Percent in each segment)

People Believe Brands Will Answer Their Call
Percent who agree

Definition of belief-driven buyer
Six questions were  asked to measure the extent to which beliefs affect a respondent’s buying behaviors. Those that consistently agreed with them were defined as belief-driven buyers.


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