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Purchase what you preach: how consumers often purchase with the bigger societal issues in mind

The debate is fierce: should brands be more involved in the conversation surrounding societal issues, yes or no? Take brands like Patagonia or Nike for example; they don’t shy away from stating their point of view on different issues. Do people really consider the bigger issues within society when shopping for a new pair of trainers, though? Well, according to new research from the Bauer Leadership Centre at Washington University, the answer is yes, they do.

This study highlights that consumers today, are more attuned to brands’ values and are more willing to pay a premium to support brands who openly share their values. The majority of consumers surveyed now think companies should take a stand on issues, even if they themselves disagree with the stance. This differs between generations, however.

Generational differences
Some of the most significant findings show that Generation X and Millennials were generally more ‘values-conscious’ than other generations.  The Silent Generation and Gen Z reported the lowest levels of value consciousness. While this is to be expected of the Silent Generation (its literally in the name), this is a surprising finding for Gen Z. Generation Z has been heralded as the more societally conscious generation who make their feelings well known.

In addition, there were differences across generations when ranking causes they believed in. For older generations, “fighting poverty, hunger and homelessness” and “curing or treatment of a disease” were most important. While younger generations were more in agreement and showed stronger preferences for “ending racism,” “gender equality” and “LGBTQ equality”. 

Brand Values
This study highlights the tendency of people nowadays to vote with their wallets:

– 82% is willing to pay more for a value-aligned brand. 
– 60% reported that they “have made a purchase from a brand because they have values I believe in”.
– 53% said there are brands they would never purchase from because of their stance on a certain issue. 


Given the potentially high cost of negative public reaction, some brands may be inclined to stay silent on societal issues. While this is certainly understandable given the rise in cancel culture, this study shows that people believe companies should, in fact, take a stand!