09 Oct 2018

The Rise of Purpose-Driven Social Marketing

We’re all after a purpose in life – and now brands are too! In fact, in an effort to set themselves apart from the rest, a growing number of companies are seeing the value of using cause-related marketing as part of their strategy. This was far from the norm a few decades ago, when even the phrase “cause-related marketing” was relatively unknown. Oh, how things have changed.

Now, in a society where consumers actively expect companies to show some sort of social responsibility in order to elicit their support, it only makes sense that this impactful phrase has become an essential aspect of the modern-day business model.

Putting their money where their mouths are

Ultimately, today’s consumers are all about voting with their dollar bills (or other appropriate currency) – and votes almost always go in support of companies that care about more than just their bottom line. This applies across the board, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, and everything in between. People are waking up to the reality that a lot goes into creating the products we buy, and ethical, environmental and social responsibility are now all front of mind for modern-day consumers making purchasing decisions.

The following summary features some of the key drivers behind this massive change in consumer consciousness and behaviour. Research shows that no matter what the cause, the drive towards responsible and sustainable purchasing is here to stay. Consumers will continue to consider product quality and price when making purchasing decisions, but only in addition to purpose and values.

2 out of 3 consumers pay more for sustainable brands

A global survey reports that the majority of today’s consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products, compared to 50% just two years ago. The report further shows that the values behind this trend transcend class, race, income levels, geographic location and various other categories.

Millennials and Gen Z: the change-makers

Having grown up in the stark realities of climate change and constant economic turmoil, it only makes sense that millenials would represent the biggest demand for purpose-driven brands, while Generation Z is close behind.

Research shows that the biggest supporters of sustainable products are young adults who share the same sentiments in the workplace as they do with their buying choices. In fact, millennial employees are more likely to remain loyal to the same company if they perceive it to be serving a higher purpose than just increasing their bottom line. As they’re pegged to make up about 75% of the workforce by 2025, the fickle nature of millennials means that 65% of them will most likely change jobs in the next five years or so – unless their employer proves to be a brand with an active social, environmental and ethical conscience.

Rising interest in food quality and sourcing

Today, we have all the information in the world contained within a small hand-held device, so it’s easy for people to learn about and understand concepts like fair trade, sustainability and quality. Gone are the days when consumers were willing to take the seller’s word when it came to a product’s ingredients or origins. Health-conscious consumers makes up more than 80% of the economically active population and they’re willing to pay more for healthier and more sustainable food, instead of penny-pinching on mass produced and less sustainable goods like their predecessors.

People are gradually demanding simple products that are not bombarded with chemicals, GMOs and needless additives. As an increased consciousness of the personal and planetary repercussions of food production continues to reach more and more people, so does the demand for organic and locally sourced produce. As a result, millennials and Gen Z consumers (AKA the Smashed Avocado Brigade) are the primary drivers of the demand for sustainable and premium quality food products. Plus, of course, coffee served in test tubes.

Ditching conspicuous consumption

The “Great Recession” has made it passé to show off one’s wealth through ostentatious status symbols (unless you’re an Instagram cretin with an Audi). Instead, luxury buyers are more concerned about forming social media connections with like-minded individuals, which has created much subtler luxury cues and niche brands. Luxury brands are now all about the experience and connections based on shared values and originality.  

Established brands meeting demand for societal purpose

The large corporations behind some of the world’s biggest brands are also embracing the movement to focus on purpose and responsibility. They’re just good guys, alright? In fact, a large majority of S&P 500 companies now willingly supply their sustainability reports to show how environmentally progressive they are. In fact, the number of companies that are providing sustainability reports has increased from 20% to 81% in only five years, with the most noticeable advantages of sustainability reporting being an improved reputation, increased customer loyalty and better employee retention.

The B-Corp Movement: committed upstarts defining a new category

You’d have to be a fool – a fool! – to take a company’s word for it when it claims to practise corporate social responsibility. Proof must be presented to back up those claims and the B-Corp movement is a way of ensuring accountability by certifying businesses that are sustainable and socially responsible. This means that the consumer can rest assured that a certified B-Corp company can back its claims of social and environmental responsibility through transparency, accountability and performance. Plus, the B-Corp movement is now on its way to being legally recognised as a new asset class in the US.

Higher purpose will continue to shape our economic future

In addition to financial returns, environmental and social influences are all essential pillars of impact investments. As such, impact investments are geared towards channeling investor capital into causes that fight against the world’s challenges. This includes concerns like conservation, renewable energy, global poverty, education, sustainable agriculture, healthcare and housing. An increasing number of investors are choosing to put their money into purposes that go beyond mere capital returns.


These days, consumers are looking for more than just value when purchasing products. The rise in conscious consumerism means that customers and employees alike are exhibiting changing perceptions and behaviour towards their economic activity. This tells us that this global movement is bound to grow and continue for a long time to come. Why? Because it’s driven by a younger generation that’s consistently directing their time, energy and funds into socially responsible and purpose-driven enterprises. And smashed avocado.

At Don’t Panic, we don’t just talk the talk – we’re busy walking the walk too. To see our work, click here, or if you’re after an attention-grabbing campaign of your own, click here.