KUALA LUMPUR, 26 August 2021 – New research from Zeno Group shows that the pandemic has made a clear and compelling purpose even more essential for businesses and brands in the region. The survey, conducted in June 2021 among more than 5,000 consumers across Asia, including 1,000 in Malaysia, reveals that:
– Malaysian consumers are 8.2 times more likely to buy from brands they believe to have a strong purpose, an increase from being 4 times more likely revealed by Zeno’s first wave of research released just one year ago
– 80% say that purpose has become even more important to them in the last 12 months
– While 98% say brand purpose is important, only 47% believe that most brands have a strong purpose, revealing a significant – and costly – “purpose gap” in the region
Among the most important elements of a purposeful brand or company identified by survey respondents in Malaysia were “Has ethical business practices” (64% of respondents); “Treats all employees well, regardless of rank or level” (58% of respondents) and “Has sustainable business practices” (56%).
Overall, 70% of Malaysians believe that it is important for companies to be relevant to the world today. 78% of Malaysians want products and services that make their lives better while 80% want companies and brands to make products that represent good value. Today’s consumers align and connect with brands at a deeper level who not only share similar values but also produce products that deliver impact.
“A perennial challenge for marketers in Malaysia has been to prove that brand or corporate purpose has a tangible, commercial benefit. This research shows conclusively that purpose pays off, and also reveals how,” said Amanda Leong, General Manager, Zeno Malaysia.
Leong added, “Consumers today want to be part of the brands they support and use. This includes knowing that the businesses they are involved with uphold sustainable and ethical business practices across environment, social and governance (ESG) efforts. Our research highlights that consumers will reward these brands with incremental sales, recommendations and loyalty. This shows that purpose driven companies will benefit from higher market share gains and customer satisfaction.”
Beyond business growth, the survey reveals additional effects of a strong purpose on business and brand performance. In Malaysia, overall, 87% of respondents said they consider a brand’s or company’s purpose when considering a job or employment with that brand, with that proportion rising to nine out of ten among Gen Z and Millennials.
Purpose also impacts personal investment decisions, with 85% of Malaysian respondents considering purpose in their decisions about making financial investments in a brand or company. For marketers, meanwhile, purpose also drives engagement, with 83% of consumers considering it when deciding whether to engage with a brand on social media.
Permission to profit
After rating dozens of brands across various segments on their perceived strength of purpose, Zeno asked consumers to indicate their likelihood to take a positive action towards these brands. In addition to being 8.2 times more likely to purchase, respondents indicated that when a brand has a strong purpose, they are:
– 10 times more likely to trust the brand
– 10.5 times more likely to recommend (champion) the brand to friends and family
– 6 times more likely to protect that brand in the in the event that it was to make a misstep or receive public criticism
And just as Asian consumers will reward purposeful brands with open wallets and strong support, they are equally inclined to punish those whose purpose, values or behaviors they disagree with. Among survey respondents in Malaysia, 27% said they would stop buying from the brand; 36% would start buying from a competitor brand or company that better aligns with their stance; and 29% would discourage others from buying from or supporting that brand. And 42% of Malaysians also responded that they would share or discuss opinions about brands with friends, family, colleagues, and other peers.
“The significant, positive relationship between strength of purpose and business results makes leading with purpose an imperative for business success. Consumers in Asia effectively give the permission to profit to those companies that have a strong purpose, and articulate and communicate it well,” said Alison DaSilva, Managing Director, Purpose and Impact, Zeno.
Demand for purpose is deepening and cross-generational
Following a tumultuous year and the COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysian consumers express an even stronger desire for brands to demonstrate a clear purpose.
Eighty percent of consumers say they feel it’s now more important for brands and companies to have a strong purpose today, when compared to before COVID-19 and the events of 2020.
The demand for brands and companies with strong purpose is evident across all generations, with Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X feeling more strongly than their older counterparts that purpose is now more important than ever. Even 68% of seniors, however, say that it has become more important for brands to have a strong purpose over the past year.
The purpose deficit in Malaysia
Compared with similar research released in 2020, Zeno’s new findings reveal new insights. Over the past year, the share of Malaysian consumers who desire or are looking for brands to have a strong purpose stayed high, at 98% %. But only 47% of them believe that brands actually do have a strong purpose. While this was a slight increase from 46% in the 2020 findings, it’s clear that this “purpose deficit” persists in Malaysia.
“It’s clear that in some Asian markets, brands have made progress in communicating their purpose to consumers,” said DaSilva. “Brands have stepped up, but the bar just got higher. Unless they keep pace with consumer expectations, brands will inevitably lose preference, reputation, loyalty and sales.”
Purpose must come from the top
Consumers in Asia expect senior corporate leaders to walk the talk. When asked who was responsible for driving brand purpose for a company or brand, 87% of consumers surveyed primarily look to the executive leadership, such as a CEO, Founder, or Owner (87%). Moreover, more than 80% of survey respondents said it’s extremely or very important for leaders of brands or companies to embody brand purpose and mission in their personal life.
In Malaysia, 67% believe it’s the responsibility of a single executive leader to drive brand purpose in the company while over 50% believe that the board of directors in an organization should also be driving purpose.
“The inescapable conclusions of Zeno’s research are that brand purpose is here to stay, and it’s value to businesses around the region has become even more compelling over this period,” said Leong. “By first recognizing consumer demand for brands with strong purpose, and then responding with relevant and authentic actions, businesses in the region have a significant opportunity to gain in terms of reputation, sales and market share and lead the recovery.”
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