Eighty-two percent of consumers make purchase decisions with purpose in mind. That’s according to a new report from Razorfish and Vice Media Group. “The Truth, Myths and Nuances Behind Purpose” aims to understand how consumers of varying generations and demographics relate to purpose when making purchase decisions and in determining brand loyalty.

Razorfish and Vice Media Group conducted three phases of research in the US between May and June 2021, including in-depth phone interviews, an online survey of 900 individuals and testing and analysis of a subset of 150 participants across demographics. Gen Z, millennials and Gen X were evenly represented across respondents.

According to the research, Gen Z is a driving force behind the call for change. They prioritize purpose when making purchase decisions, as 76 percent state that the brands they support stand for a greater mission or have a higher purpose. Additionally, Gen Z is twice and three times as likely to cite brands – rather than media companies and institutions – as having the power to make the world a better place, as compared to millennials and Gen X, respectively.

This report also shows that millennials and Gen X are sufficiently similar in this context such that brands shouldn’t focus their purpose efforts exclusively on Gen Z. Among the respondents, 62 percent report that a brand’s values are important or very important in helping them make purchase decisions, regardless of age. 

Of those respondents, 40 percent actively research a brand’s values and practices. And of the elements these consumers take into consideration when choosing which brand to buy from, brand purpose (41 percent) outweighs both innovation (32 percent) and discounts (26 percent).

Purpose-driven buying isn’t necessarily new but the pandemic has caused a stark shift in consumers’ priorities when shopping and the number of consumers that care. Yet despite the fact that greater importance is placed on purpose and by more consumers, brands’ efforts in this regard seem to be falling flat, according to the report.

“We’re at the peak of purpose washing, and it’s imperative that brands not only clearly communicate their purpose but authentically put it into practice in everything they do. Brands are beyond the ‘why’ and are struggling with the ‘how’ to follow through and tie purpose to performance,” said Nicolas Chidiac, brand strategy lead at Razorfish.

The study shares three key takeaways:

  • Consumers are paying attention to mission and purpose as 82 percent of respondents stated that the brands they support stand for a greater mission or purpose.
  • Consumers care about societal and personal benefits as 76 percent of respondents stated that the brands they buy make the world a better place while 67 percent reported that the brands they buy make them a better person.
  • Purpose is amplified by proximity as 40 percent of respondents stated that buying local food or drinks became more important to them during the pandemic, while 70 percent agreed that it’s important or extremely important for brands to give back to their local community.

Brands in the post-COVID era have the opportunity, and in a sense, an obligation, to match their words with positive action. Razorfish recommends brands act on the following three priorities to keep pace with changing consumer sentiment toward purpose and purchasing:

  • Be authentic and determine where you stand in regard to personal and societal issues so that you may serve your consumer and limit “purpose appropriation” (which will lead to an erosion of consumer trust).
  • Take small steps before big leaps by focusing on what you can do to have an immediate impact on your local community while also recognizing the power of your voice.
  • Reduce the time it takes for consumers to discover your purpose by displaying it across all touchpoints.