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The rise of the ethical consumer. What does it mean for brands?

Brands of today are continuously faced with having to adapt to the changing needs and trends of society. These days it seems it is simply not enough for brands to provide a quality product or service at a price consumers are willing to pay. A recent article from Marketing Week suggests that consumers are now increasingly taking an interest into a brand's ethical values and social responsibility. Research suggests that these considerations are having a strong impact on consumer’s purchase intent, even more so than price, quality and overall brand reputation. Take for example Unilever; their “sustainable brands” such as Dove and Lifebuoy, delivered strong growth in 2014, in fact at twice the rate of Unilever’s other brands.

Brands are becoming responsive to this societal change, many intertweaving innovative, sustainable and ethical practises. Take for example the “Scarecrow” animated campaign by Chipotle, highlighting the unethical practises of “fast food” chains and the differentiated approach they have implement compared to their competitors. Or IKEA who have installed more than 700,000 solar panels on IKEA stores worldwide and M&S who  have introduced “Plan A”, setting out 100 different environmental initiatives in 5 years. 

On a personal note, my awareness of brands and their ethical practises (or not!!) has increased especially since the food scandals in 2013. More than likely, I would be prepared to boycott products and share my views about a company’s behaviour now especially if I deemed it unethical and detrimental to consumers.

Research shows I am not alone. According to the Annual Ethical Consumer Report, in the last 12 months, 56% of consumers have talked to friends or family about a company’s behaviour whilst 42% have recommended a company because of its responsible behaviour. These figures certainly show the increasing power and influence consumers have on brands within the marketplace nowadays – and something for brands to be very vigilant of in the future. 

By Amelia Cornish, Research Executive

This entry was posted in B2C, tagged Consumer, Insight and posted on July 20, 2015


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