To what extent do people choose brands that align with their personal values and beliefs? That’s the billion-dollar question challenging businesses, brands, and marketers today. Here are four leading insights based on the latest CivicScience polling data to help guide brands in 2023.

1. How important is it for companies to ‘have a heart’?

Around 3-in-4 U.S. adult consumers (73%) agree that a company’s “social consciousness and overall kindness” has some degree of importance when choosing where to shop and what to buy. For a significant percentage (29%), it’s very important. 

However, importance appears to have peaked in 2020, which isn’t surprising given the series of major social and political events that took place then, such as the BLM protests and the presidential election. It was also prior to the onset of runaway inflation, which likely swung sentiment in the opposite direction starting in 2021. Today, the percentage of those who say that company social consciousness is ‘very important’ rests below pre-pandemic (2019) averages – and this is true for every age group.

2. Should brands take a stand on hot-button social & political issues?

Part of a company’s social consciousness can be viewed as its stance on certain social and political issues. But the majority of U.S. consumers (58%) think brands should avoid making their opinions public – and are slightly more inclined to say they ‘never’ should – compared to a third (34%) who agree they should take a stand at least ‘sometimes.’

In fact, consumers are more inclined today to feel that brands should ‘not typically’ align with social and political issues, up two points since January 2022. Alternately, those who think they should ‘always’ come out in support of a side or cause is down three points from this time last year.

3. Which values matter the most?

Championing social and political causes may resonate strongly with some consumers, while fair employee treatment, sustainable practices, diversity and inclusivity, and transparency are more important to others. Close to two-thirds of U.S. adults (63%) say that at least one of these five values matter to them when deciding on a product or service. Although, that percentage has fallen five points since January 2022; today, consumers are more likely to say that none of these values matter to them when making a purchase.

The biggest change? Respondents are significantly less likely to place importance on whether or not a brand champions their personal social or political beliefs (down 38%). On the other hand, they are slightly more likely to value a brand’s transparency and trustworthiness when deciding on a purchase (up 8%).

4. What about Gen Z?

A big challenge for today’s marketers is how to best reach Gen Z audiences. To what extent does this young generation choose products and services that align with their personal values and beliefs? According to the data:

  • Gen Z adults (18-24) are just as likely as Baby Boomers (55+) to say a company’s social consciousness and overall kindness is ‘very important’ (31%) when making purchasing decisions – higher than both Millennial and Gen X age groups (27%).
  • They are more likely than older generations to feel that brands should take a stand on important social and political issues (38%), but not by much. For example, 35% of Baby Boomers also agree. That said, a solid half of Gen Z adults do not think brands should align with social and political issues.
  • Gen Z adults are more likely than older adults to say a brand that values its employees is most important when deciding what to purchase. In contrast, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers are all more likely to name brand transparency and trust as most important.

Ultimately, the majority of Americans are still inclined to purchase from companies and brands that resonate with certain values they hold, but the data show that sentiment has softened over the past year, likely as price sensitivity and economic concerns grew. Consumers are overall less likely to feel brands should take a stand on social/political issues or value that when deciding what to buy. However, the U.S. population is far from homogenous and opinions vary by age, gender, location, and political affiliation, among other demographics.

Want to get in touch with your target audience in 2023? Lets chat.