Seventh Generation, TOMS top purposeful brands index

Google, GE, Toyota and Pfizer among companies entering the top 20 for the first time.

Published: June 8, 2022

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Seventh Generation, TOMS, Zoom, Allbirds and AbbVie are the top five most purposeful brands in the US, according to the 2022 Purpose Power Index from Movement Thinking, StrawberryFrog and Dynata.

The findings are based on responses from more than 5,500 US consumers and employees received in April, covering over 200 brands across 50 industries.

Respondents rated companies based on four categories:

  • Beyond Profits
  • Improving Lives
  • Better Society
  • Better World

The top 10 is rounded out, in order, by Burt’s Bees, Wegman’s Food Markets, USAA, Tesla Motors and REI.

There were 10 new entrants to the top 20 this year: Burt’s Bees, Wegman’s, Google, UnitedHealth Group, Pfizer, General Electric, Patagonia, Panera Bread, Toyota and Roche.

During The Purpose Power Index Big Reveal, Chip Walker, head of strategy at StrawberryFrog and Gary S. Laben, CEO of Dynata, explained key trends from the research:

Purpose moves from niche to mainstream

The first Purpose Power Index was measured in 2019 and, at that time, small social good brands dominated the top 20. This continued in the second Index in 2021, but with the addition of brands that were seen as “pandemic heroes,” such as The Clorox Co., 3M and GlaxoSmithKline.

In 2022, the list includes many more mainstream brands. Walker points out that 16 of the top 20 are very big brands, those with $1 billion in revenue or more.

The pandemic effect still lingers

The pandemic is still affecting the ranking, with Pfizer and Roche moving into the top 20 for their pharmaceutical contributions. Brands such as Zoom, Airbnb and Peloton moved up the Index for their roles in helping consumers communicate, live and work from anywhere and keep fit.

Automakers are seen as more purposeful

Tesla, Toyota, GM and Ford all hugely improved their rankings in this year’s Index, a shift that Walker attributes to a surge in interest in electric vehicles and an in EV offerings and increase advertising from automakers. This chimes with recent Numerator research, which found going green is becoming more mainstream for both consumers and brands.

Brand social activism inspires, and divides

Brands that are well known for purposeful advertising and social activism experienced a mixed bag for this year’s ranking. Google, Target, Disney and Ben & Jerry’s all improved their ranking but Apple, Nike and the NBA experienced a drop.

“Corporate social activism caught the attention of our respondents, but it both inspires some and it also polarizes some,” Walker explained.

Additional Dynata statistics reveal that 149 million American consumers would boycott or choose a brand based on the stand it takes on social or political issues.

The answer to why some brands seen as social advocates perform more poorly on the list compared to others might lie in another trend identified by the research:

The purpose gap

The research revealed that senior managers are far more likely to think their companies are doing a good job when it comes to purpose compared to the rest of employees. Some 56% of senior managers say their company has taken action to demonstrate it is genuine about purpose-driven aspirations, compared to 46% of middle management and 35% of junior staff.

The lesson for brands? They need to walk the talk, Laben says. This means companies must demonstrate that purpose is authentic by taking action both as a brand and as an employer.

Marketers need “to create initiatives to identify and connect with consumers who are aligned to a particular brand’s purpose,” Laben adds.

As 85 million Americans are motivated by purpose to buy products or services, per Dynata, brands have a very big incentive to walk the purpose talk. And those that get it right will not only win customers, but advocates for their brand.

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