Values, action, and purpose: a new era of brands in America

We are entering a new era of brands. In Phase One of our research across April, May, and June 2020, we discovered Americans are dealing with economic concerns over COVID-19 and its effects by focusing on individual purpose and priorities.

Now, our Phase Two research reflects that brands are expected to be leaders in society. Smart brands need to meet people where they are with values-driven language and action. To navigate this new era, brands need to let their purpose lead the way.

Americans have been dealing with health, safety, and economic concerns by getting introspective and focusing on individual purpose and priorities.

Over 76 percent of Americans say that during these times in our country, they’re focusing even more on the important things in life. The things even more important to them right now are staying mentally and physically healthy, connecting with family, saving money, and helping others. The important things to Americans are not just the people around them, but also their values and how they reflect them. The values that are even more important right now are honesty, respect, compassion, and integrity.

Americans are using their values to guide the way.

During these times in our country, younger Americans are the most likely to prioritize economic issues such as making and saving money. They are also more likely to believe most of the country’s issues right now stem from the economy. When it comes to values, they’re more likely to believe education, open-mindedness, and activism are the most important right now. Compared to their younger counterparts, older Americans have been focusing on physical health and implementing safety measures. Increasingly, older Americans want to feel safe and informed. They also prioritize patriotism more than younger Americans.

Despite their differences, young or old, Americans are using their values to guide the way, and they lwantcompanies to share these values as well. When Americans make a purchase, 57 percent say now it’s even more important that brands they buy from share their values. The values they look for most in a brand reflect a need for information built on a clear, mutually understood brand purpose.

How your values now can shape your brand’s tomorrow.

When it comes to brands, Americans value honesty, reliability, dependability, integrity, and environmentalism, and they expect brands to take action based on these shared values for the good of society. Since April, Americans especially appreciate it when they see companies not only act on behalf of their employees and customers but for the good of society in general. During this time in the country, they believe it’s most important for brands to implement safety measures, promote social distancing, lower prices, create fairer and more equal workplaces, and act to improve society. Americans look to brands that act on these values because they want to feel safe, informed, positive, and confident.

Acting on behalf of shared values directly drives purchase behavior.

66 percent of Americans agree they’re more likely to purchase from a brand/company that shares their values. 40 percent of Americans say they’ve stopped purchasing from a business because of their actions or statements, and an average of 30 percent of Americans say they’ve switched to a brand that supports a cause they value or to one that better fits their values.

Consumers expect companies to act on their values because they believe brands should play a bigger role in our society.

Over half of America agrees brands’ roles extend beyond their bottom line. In fact, only 32 percent of Americans agree that companies only have a responsibility to ensure profitability. The rest of America believes companies play a vital role in the economic well-being of people. In this spirit, they expect companies to act for the benefit of their customers and employees and to create a fairer economy. They also believe companies should support positive social change and act for the benefit of the climate.

With America forming increased expectations for companies, brands are more important than ever. We are entering a new era where people are holding brands accountable for personal, social, and environmental change.

How brands can thrive in this purpose-driven era:

To succeed in this era, brands need to re-evaluate their brand purpose and ensure it’s grounded in a universal truth that can be credibly delivered.

A brand will attract followers by letting purpose lead the way. They need to communicate this brand purpose clearly and showcase their values for others to see and rally behind.

Americans crave information and honesty, so develop an open approach to communication. Brands need to live by their values. Talk is cheap in this new era, and action is the currency of the modern brand.

This extends to the brand’s leadership. In fact, 70 percent of Americans today believe companies should be held accountable for what their leaders do.

In this new era, brands can lead the change we want to see in this world – so long as they understand their purpose and let it lead the way. The findings above will be available soon as a full report. Until then, check out our previous blog post outlining how consumer perspectives have shifted during COVID-19 – and what brands should do about it.



Adam Shigem | Senior Strategist

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