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The 2012 Edelman Good Purpose Report: U.S. Consumers Feel Responsible But Involvement in Social Issues Declines

Consumers Across 16 Countries Look to Marketers to Bridge the Gap

The 2012 Edelman Good Purpose Report: U.S. Consumers Feel Responsible But Involvement in Social Issues Declines

Consumers Across 16 Countries Look to Marketers to Bridge the Gap

Published 04-26-12

Submitted by Edelman

Consumers in the U.S. are scaling back their participation in societal issues more than their peers throughout the world, according to the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose® study.

With 82 percent of U.S. consumers affected by the economic downturn, the percentage of consumers involved in a cause dropped from 60 percent to 53 percent between 2010 and 2012, the only decline among the 16 countries surveyed. Yet, for the first time ever, the U.S. was the only country to believe the responsibility of tackling society’s issues falls most heavily on the shoulders of “people like me” (35 percent) and not government (22 percent).

“The tension of this paradox spells significant opportunity for marketers. While U.S. consumers currently have less time and money to put towards societal issues, they still feel they’re most responsible to help,” said Carol Cone, global practice chair, Business + Social Purpose, Edelman. 

“Brands and corporations can ease the burden for consumers by making involvement in social issues easier and more aligned with the core needs they face today – jobs, hunger, education and healthcare.”

Despite the declining involvement in the U.S., Purpose remains a deeply held belief around the globe that is driving consumer behavior and preference.

When quality and price of a product are deemed equal, social purpose has consistently been the leading purchase trigger for global consumers since 2008, muscling design and innovation and brand loyalty aside. Over those years, the relevance of Purpose as a purchase factor has risen 26 percent globally.

Growth has been even more prominent over the last 18 months in markets such as Japan (+100 percent), China (+79 percent), Netherlands (+43 percent), India (+43 percent), and Germany (+36 percent).

Brands aligning themselves with causes are not only securing more consumer consideration, but are also earning their dollars and support. Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers have bought a brand at least monthly that supports a cause, representing a 47 percent increase from 2010. Over the years, consumers have taken increased action on behalf of brands with Purpose:

  • 39 percent increase in “would recommend” cause-related brands
  • 34 percent increase in “would promote” cause-related brands
  • 9 percent increase in “would switch” brands if a similar brand supported a good cause

“It’s not the IF, it’s the HOW,” said Jackie Cooper, global vice chair, Edelman Brand Properties. “Purpose needs to become a core competency for leading brands and corporations. Companies need to build social equity into their brands, from product innovation, to employee engagement to marketing communications.”

The study found that consumers are calling for business leaders to genuinely embed Purpose into their everyday operations:

  • 56% believe CEOs need to create innovative products that are socially responsible
  • 55% believe CEOs need to make a long-term commitment to address societal issues
  • 55% believe CEOs need to publically support societal issues
  • 52% believe CEOs need to motivate employees to take part in societal issues

goodpurpose 2012 also reveals that Purposeful organizations who treat employees well, listen to customers and work to protect the environment drive not only future trust, but also future purchase intent.

The New Purpose Bull Markets

Consumers within Rapid Growth Economies (RGEs) —the new Purpose “Bull” Markets—such as China, Brazil, India, UAE, Indonesia, and Malaysia, unlike the U.S. and Western Europe, are fast-tracking Purpose-driven involvement and support for Purpose-infused brands. Markets such as Brazil (+10 points) and China (+5 points) have seen significant increases since 2010 in the amount of people supporting a good cause.

RGE consumers are more bullish on Purpose, in contrast to Purpose “Bear” Markets, such as the U.S. and Western Europe. And while 60 percent of individuals globally said they support a good cause, personal involvement in Purpose Bull Markets is markedly higher than in Purpose Bear Markets; 78 percent versus 48 percent, respectively. Bull Market consumers are flexing their Purpose muscle through actions such as sharing, donating and volunteering:

  • Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Bull Market consumers donated money over the past year compared to 52 percent of Bear Market consumers
  • 44 percent of Bull Market consumers volunteered in their local communities compared to only 23 percent of Bear Market consumers

RGE consumers are also making Purpose purchases at a much more dramatic rate. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) in Purpose Bull Markets are purchasing Purpose-infused products at least once a month, compared to 37 percent in Purpose Bear Markets.

“Purpose, a brand or company’s reason for being beyond profits, is now pervasive around the globe,” said Cone. “For Purpose-driven initiatives to gain their greatest impact, both business and social, they must be in line with larger socioeconomic trends and customized to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers.”

To read the executive summary of the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose® study, click here.

About Edelman
Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, with 63 offices and more than 4,200 employees worldwide, as well as affiliates in more than 30 cities. Edelman was named Advertising Age’s top-ranked PR firm of the decade in 2009 and one of its “A-List Agencies” in both 2010 and 2011; Adweek’s “2011 PR Agency of the Year;” PRWeek’s “2011 Large PR Agency of the Year;” and The Holmes Report’s “2011 Global Agency of the Year” and its 2011 North American “Large Agency of the Year.” Edelman was named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Advertising Age in 2010 and 2012 and among Glassdoor’s top five “2011 Best Places to Work.” Edelman owns specialty firms Blue (advertising), A&R Edelman (technology), First&42nd (management consultancy), DJE Science (medical education/publishing and science communications), and agencies Edelman Significa (Brazil), and Pegasus (China). Visit for more information.

About the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose® study
The 2012 Edelman goodpurpose® study is the firm’s fifth annual global consumer study that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands and corporations. The survey was conducted by StrategyOne in January and February of 2012 and consisted of online interviews in 16 countries among 8,000 adults. Five-hundred respondents were surveyed in each of the following markets: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. The margin of error is +/-1.1% for the full Global sample; +/-1.4% for the Global tracking sample; and +/-4.4% for each country’s sample. For more information, visit 



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