A growing segment of the population is calling companies to task over their role in society and this same group of consumers is already influencing others to support or abandon brands, according to research commissioned by MWWPR and conducted by Wakefield Research. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

First identified in 2017, these so-called 'CorpSumers' base their loyalty and purchasing decisions on companies' reputations rather than just product features and price. The second annual study in 2018 found that 35% of the US population now broadly number themselves among the modern 'CorpSumers' segment - a rise of 2% in only one year - and that 8 in 10 are willing to pay more for brands that take a stand on important policy and societal issues.

"What the last year has shown us is that companies' engagement on societal and public policy issues is table stakes. CorpSumers don't just want brands to take a stand, they expect it and act accordingly," said Carreen Winters, MWWPR's Chairman of Reputation and Chief Strategy Officer. "Bigger than moms and Millennials, this powerful market segment sees right through superficial attempts by brands to simply appear as good corporate citizens. In exchange for brand loyalty, they crave authenticity in a company's ethos, message, and execution. 'Goodwashing' is the new greenwashing, and companies who attempt to dabble in purpose without authenticity do so at their own peril."

In CEOs We Trust?
As CorpSumers' confidence in government continues to erode (an 8-point drop from 2017,) they are increasingly turning to CEOs to fill the void. A whopping 75% of CorpSumers base purchase decisions on their opinions of company leadership, a 4-point increase from 2017, and 36% believe company leadership speaking out on an important issue is the best way for companies to take a stand.

90% of US CorpSumers are more likely to try a company's product, and 80% are willing to pay more for products from companies that take a stand on societal and public policy matters. 43% of CorpSumers prefer a company to take a stand on an issue, even if it does not align with their own point of view. Furthermore, 78% of this segment expects companies to have meaningful corporate citizenship initiatives, a 4-point jump from 2017.

What Do CorpSumers Care About?
This year's study provided a blueprint for exactly what issues companies need to think about when it comes to engaging these brand amplifiers. The results showed that company's treatment of employees has the greatest impact on purchase decisions (81%). Other top-of-mind issues for CorpSumers include:

  1. Company working conditions (56%)
  2. Product safety (54%)
  3. Equal pay and employment (53%)

But with almost 60% of CorpSumers expressing skepticism at companies' underlying motives, positions on policy issues must align with a corporation's values to engage and retain this market segment.

"Brand bravery and 'walking the talk' will be critical for CEOs across industries in 2019," added Winters. "A far cry from check-the-box initiatives and greenwashing practices of years past, citizenship is the new gold standard and must be a central tenant of any C-suite agenda or corporate strategy."

Compounding Influence
When it comes to these issues, the study also revealed just how influential the CorpSumers are becoming:

  • Over 3 in 4 US CorpSumers consider a company's actions before deciding to purchase from that company.
  • 70% of CorpSumers encourage others to buy a product from a company with a strong reputation
  • 77% of Gen Z and 78% of Millennials have encouraged someone to buy a product from a company due to its reputation, more so than Gen X and Baby Boomers.
  • Almost half (48%) of CorpSumers have stayed with a company despite being dissatisfied with their products or services because they believed in the company's mission or values.
  • The opposite is also true - 64% of CorpSumers have encouraged others to give up a product or service from companies that disappointed them, while 68% would abandon brands entirely if their values no longer align.

To influence CorpSumers, the study suggests, CEOs must also take into account shifting trends in media consumption. Corporate leadership needs to lean in to social media, as it is the most trusted news source among CorpSumers looking for information about a company. Social influencers are also key to attaining CorpSumers' trust. Given the power of the CorpSumer to mobilize and incite change, companies will need to pay attention to their demands and expectations - or face the bottom-line impact of brand disloyalty.