In September 2022, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced that his multi-billion dollar outdoor gear and apparel company would not be “going public” – or heading down the path of creating “short-term gain at the expense of long-term…(environmental) responsibility”. Instead, the sustainability-focused brand was “going purpose”: by transferring ownership to a trust that would preserve the company’s commitment to environmental conservation in perpetuity, and henceforth distributing all profits not reinvested back into the business (projected to be around US$100 million annually) as a dividend to the nonprofit Holdfast Collective to help combat climate change.
Patagonia has since been lauded as a striking example of a purpose-driven brand which, in the words of the chair of its Board of Directors, aims to “attract more investment, better employees, and deeper customer loyalty” by thoroughly embracing its longstanding ethos of environmental activism. While not all brands may follow Patagonia’s footsteps in making “earth… (their) only shareholder”, many businesses intuitively understand the importance of creating authentic connections with their customer base through shared values, and by aligning their brand with a higher cause.
In this article, we assess the potential of purpose-driven brands in fostering a strong customer base in APAC. In particular, what proportion of consumers across ages are attracted to brands that demonstrate social activism, promote ethical or sustainable consumerism, and are passionate about supporting their local communities? And how do these vary across key markets in the region?
Cause-based marketing: The state of social activism in consumer choices
Latest data from YouGov Profiles – an audience intelligence tool with over 2 million+ consumer data variables continuously updated every week – reveals that close to half of all APAC consumers are drawn to socially-conscious brands that display values aligned with their own (46%) and get involved with issues of wider societal interest (48%).
In particular, consumers aged 35-54 years are most likely to consider a brand’s values when making purchase decisions (50%), while most consumers aged 35-44 years appreciate brands that engage with social issues (52%).
Brands that have a moral message are also more likely to appeal to three in five (62%) of all APAC consumers.
Regionally, more than half of Indonesian consumers (54%) and over two in five Thai consumers (45%) consider whether a brand upholds values that align with their personal outlook before making a purchase – the highest across key markets in APAC. They are also most likely to appreciate brands that engage with social issues (59% and 47%).
Meanwhile, brands with a moral message enjoy the widest appeal in Indonesia (80%) and Hong Kong (60%), although just under a third of consumers in the latter like brands that get involved with social issues.
Want more insights about social activism in consumer choices and the state of cause-based marketing today? Get in touch with us here.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): The rise of ethical and sustainable consumerism
When it comes to choosing green and humane product options, latest data from YouGov Profiles reveals that about half of all APAC consumers try to buy from brands which are socially and environmentally responsible (48%), and which engage in fair trade processes (53%). Notably, around half are also willing to pay more for eco-friendly products (51%).
Consumers aged 35-54 years are most likely to consider whether a brand is socially and environmentally responsible when making purchase decisions (52-53%). Across ages, more than half of consumers make an effort to buy fair trade products (except the oldest aged 55+ years), and are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products (except the youngest aged 18-24 years).
Buying from socially and environmentally responsible companies is a priority for most Thai (62%) and Indonesian (55%) consumers, but for roughly only a third in Singapore (33%) and Hong Kong (34%).
Looking out for fair trade products is something close to two-thirds of consumers in Indonesia (64%) make an effort to do, but only two in five consumers in other key APAC markets say the same. Indonesian consumers are also most open to spending more for eco-friendly products (72%), ahead of Thai (51%) and Australian (50%) consumers, while less than half of Singaporean (41%) and Hong Kong (38%) consumers would.
Want more insights about ethically and environmental sustainability-minded consumers and the role of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) compliance for brands today? Get in touch with us here.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The case for big brand – small business collaborations
Besides social and environmental considerations, around half of all APAC consumers are also concerned with large online and multinational enterprises driving out small businesses in their community (49%).
Over half of all APAC consumers also prefer buying from local community shops over foreign ones (51%) and make an effort to support local businesses (56%). In general, older consumers are more likely to express a preference to buy from and support local businesses.
Regionally, consumers in Indonesia are most likely to conscientiously support local businesses (82%) and prefer shopping locally (68%), followed by Australia. On the other hand, Singapore is the only market where less than half of consumers say they make an effort to support local businesses (49%) and prefer shopping close-by (40%).
Want more insights on the role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards on consumer attitudes towards brands today? Get in touch with us here.
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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data for Australia is nationally representative of all adults (18 years or older), and weighted by age, gender, and region, and reflect the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population estimates. Profiles data for Hong Kong is representative of the adult online population (18 years or older), weighted by age and gender, and reflect the latest Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) population estimates. Profiles data for Indonesia is representative of the adult online population (18 years or older), weighted by gender, age, socioeconomic class, city tier, and reflect the latest Indonesian Bureau of Statistics (BPS) population estimates. Profiles data for Singapore is nationally representative of all adults (18 years or older), weighted by age, gender, and ethnicity, and reflect the latest Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) estimates. Profiles data for Thailand is representative of the adult online population (18 years or older), and weighted by gender, age, region and monthly household income, and reflect the latest National Statistical Office of Thailand (NSO) population estimates. Learn more about Profiles.
Photo by Qi Yang on Getty Images