WFA News

Brands Will Increasingly Need Purpose, Say World’s Biggest Marketers

Marketers see purpose as business opportunity but do not fully understand consumer attitudes to it

Marketers focused on developed markets; but consumers in rapid growth markets appear more purpose driven

Global marketers vote Unilever, P&G and Coca-Cola as purpose leaders

Brussels, 7 March 2013: New research released today by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and Edelman shows global marketers overwhelmingly agree that ‘purpose’ will be increasingly important to building brands in the future.

Putting Purpose into Marketing also reveals that consumers and marketers are sometimes divided when it comes to their perceptions of ‘purpose’ and how it acts as a driver of purchase decisions. While people and marketers tended to agree that ‘purpose’ is defined by ‘protecting and improving the environment’, ‘positively impacting local communities and ‘having ethical business practices,’ marketers underplayed emerging consumer concerns and failed to identify the markets where consumers are most driven by brand purpose.

Presented as part of the Global Marketer Conference in Brussels, which marks the WFA’s 60th Anniversary, the study identifies the extent to which marketers believe that consumer decision-making is prompted by brand purpose, where there are gaps and business opportunities.

The aim was to reveal the flip side of the coin revealed by Edelman’s goodpurpose survey, which has explored consumer attitudes around social purpose, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands, for the last five years.

Putting Purpose in Marketing is based on responses from 149 senior marketers representing 58 companies in more than 40 countries for companies representing over $US70 billion in ad spend.

Marketers strongly acknowledged the growing importance of purpose. 88% agreed or strongly agreed it would be ‘increasingly important to building brands,’ 83% that it is ‘important for a brand to have a sense of purpose’ and 81% that it was ‘a business opportunity’.

However, when comparing their responses with Edelman’s consumer data, marketers appeared to underestimate the extent to which consumers said they supported good causes (46% of marketers said consumers support good causes vs. 60% consumers) and the proportion of global consumers who thought it was OK for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time (56% vs. 76%).

Significantly, the biggest gap between the two sets of responses was marketers’ perceptions of which region’s consumers are most motivated by purpose. When asked for which continent has the greatest proportion of consumers who say they make purchase decisions based on good causes, 58% marketers chose Europe, 36% North America, 5% Asia and 1% for South America.

Conversely, Edelman’s research identifies consumers in the Rapid Growth Economies of China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE and Brazil as being the most bullish on purpose. It’s results show that consumers’ passion and action on behalf of purpose in these markets is much stronger than in mature markets, like the US and Western Europe. Consumers in the Rapid Growing Economies also say they are more willing to pay more and more often for purpose-infused brands.

Marketers agreed that purpose needs to be top down with 80% saying that the Chief Executive – and 74% the Chief Marketing Officer – should be involved in designing and shaping purpose. Only 53% of marketers thought all employees should be involved; but as many as 88% agreed or strongly agreed that ‘purpose needs to pervade the entire organisation and have buy-in from all business functions’.

When asked if the brands they worked for generally had a sense of purpose, 49% marketers agreed or strongly agreed but only 38% felt they had been successful in effectively communicating the ‘purpose’ of their own companies. Nevertheless, some 93% agreed that it is possible to measure the impact of purpose on positive PR and reputation, 91% on consumer engagement, 90% on employee satisfaction, 86% on brand equity and 71% on customer satisfaction. 54% agreed it was possible to measure the impact of purpose on sales but 74% strongly disagreed or disagreed that it is easy to measure the the impact of purpose on the brand.

When asked to pick a purpose leader out of the Ad Age top 20 global marketers, 23% respondents chose Unilever. Coca-Cola and P&G were tied second with 16% each of the votes. McDonald’s came fourth with 11%.

For a full write up of the research or for more details of the 60th anniversary celebrations, please go to