Voting with your dollars, putting your money where your mouth is—whatever you’d like to call it—making buying decisions based on the politics, ethics, or values of the brand selling you their products appears to be an increasing motivation for customers.
According to a study recently released by Edelman, an international marketing firm, so-called “belief-driven buyers”—pardon us for the marketing speak, there will be a little more—are the majority of customers in the U.S., with a reported 59 percent of consumers reporting that they prefer to buy from brands largely based on the values and advocacy of the brand. In Japan, that figure is 60 percent. It’s 57 in the UK and 54 percent in Germany.
This belief-driven buying can mean buying gear only from brands that back political or social positions you support. Or it can mean boycotting others that hold interests starkly opposed from your own—we saw plenty of that earlier this year when many outdoor enthusiasts began boycotting outdoor gear brands owned by parent company Vista, one of the biggest gun and ammunition manufacturers in the world.
Amazingly, and for better or worse, respondents to Edelman’s survey report that they think brands are simply better equipped to make cultural and societal changes than governments. Nearly half of the people surveyed think brands have better ideas for solving problems at the national level than their government does.
“This is the birth of Brand Democracy; as consumers are electing brands as their change agents,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and if necessary, make the leap into activism.”
Interestingly, consumers said they were just as likely to buy a product after seeing an ad based on the brand’s values as they were an ad that touted the product’s specs or capabilities.
The outdoor industry likely sees an unusually values-oriented consumer base, compared with other consumer goods markets, with public lands access, conservation, and environmental issues underpinning so many of the activities an outdoor-focused consumer is buying. Not to mention that the brands themselves are often staffed with people who advocate for these issues. See: Outdoor Retailer pulling out of Utah after the state couldn’t take a stand against selling off public lands.
Bottom line: Get ready for more values-focused ads from your favorite brands.