Marketing has been built on the duality of rational and emotional needs, but Edelman’s second brandshare™ report, released today, proves there is now an additional consumer need for brands to satisfy: societal. According to our brandshare study of 15,000 consumers in 12 developing and developed countries, and across 11 industries, meeting all three needs delivers immediate and long-term business value:

  • 8 percent escalation in purchase intent.
  • 10 percent greater likelihood consumers will defend a brand from reputational attack.
  • 11 percent increase in consumer willingness to share personal data with a brand.
  • 12 percent rise in consumer propensity to recommend a brand.
  • 12 percent greater probability consumers will share branded content with their social networks.

Emotional is still the most powerful consumer need, motivating purchase and recommendation. Societal is the second most powerful aspect, driving social outcomes such as sharing personal information and content. Rational is the underpinning of purchase intent but there is much more demanded than functionality and price.

Here are more specific findings:

  1. Rational Elements Demand Attention — Nearly 80 percent of people say that it is important for brands to respond quickly to people’s concerns or complaints but only 17 percent believe that brands perform on this responsibility. On the matter of sourcing and manufacture, two-thirds globally believe it is important but only 15 percent believe that brands perform – the average gap by country is between 34 and 60 points. Two-thirds of respondents believe that there is a one-sided relationship between brand and consumer and that brands have a self-centered desire to increase profits instead of having a sincere commitment to customers.
  2. Emotional Shortcomings Cut Across Regions and Age Groups — Consumers want more valuable relationships, meaning that they want to know more about brands and the companies behind them, and to participate more in the brand development process. There is very little difference among Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers on an issue such as using the brand’s resources to drive change in the world. There is very little difference between developed and developing markets findings.
  3. Societal Needs Go Well Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility — The new normal for brands is to take a stand on issues that consumers care about most. In particular, there is a demand for transparency on how a product is sourced and made by 68 percent of respondents, up from 54 percent last year. There is a crossover between corporate reputation and brand marketing in the desire to understand the company’s mission and vision for the future.

We are in a new era in which brands take responsibility for some of the functions traditionally owned by the corporate center, from communications to supply chain. Increasingly, brands are taking the lead in addressing controversies, such as violence against women by NFL players or racist comments by former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Brands also do well by taking on important issues, such as Unilever’s (disclosure: Edelman client) hand-washing campaign for Lifebuoy soap. The democratic process inherent in consumer choice will only drive change faster.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.