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Did you choose to buy Nike after it featured Colin Kaepernick in its new campaign? Perhaps you chose to boycott the brand for the same reason. As it stands, almost 1 in 3 consumers have strongly held, passionate beliefs and feel that the brands they buy are an important expression of those beliefs, according to a report from Edelman [pdf].

The survey was fielded among 8,000 consumers across 8 key markets. It found that 30% this year are “Leaders” in terms of seeing brands as an embodiment of their beliefs, up from 26% last year.

Additionally, 34% this year are “Joiners” – who will change their buying behavior based on a brand’s stand. These consumers, whose purchase behaviors depend on the issue and the brand, appear to have grown in number, from 25% last year.

As such, 64% are described as “belief-driven buyers” this year, meaning that they buy at least sometimes based on a brand’s stand on societal issues. That represents a sizable increase from last year, when 51% met that description.

Respondents were classified into these segments based on their responses to six questions about how their beliefs affect their buying behaviors.

The study comes at a time when companies are increasingly being expected to be forces of positive societal change: more than three-quarters of adults expect companies to go beyond just making money and also positively impact society.

“Belief-driven buying,” as it’s coined in the Edelman study, is becoming mainstream across countries and demographics. A majority in each of the 8 markets studied buy at least sometimes based on brands’ societal stands, ranging from a high of 78% in China to a low of 54% in Germany. (The US was on the lower end, at 59%.)

This belief-driven approach is also common across generations. Youth (18-34) are the most likely to have adopted this attitude, in line with various pieces of research indicating that they pay the most attention to corporate social responsibility.

Nonetheless, consumers ages 55 and up posted the biggest change in belief-driven mindsets, with 56% this year buying to some degree on belief, up from 38% last year.

Meanwhile, high-income consumers continue to be the most likely to take a belief-driven approach to their purchase decisions, but more than 6 in 10 respondents across low- and middle-income brackets have also adopted that attitude.

In other highlights from Edelman’s report:

  • Almost half (46%) believe that brands have better ideas for solving their country’s problems than government;
  • Slightly more than half (53%) feel that brands can actually do more to solve social problems than government can;
  • Some 54% feel that it’s easier for people to get brands to address social problems than to get government to do so; and
  • Six in 10 want brands to make it easier for them to see what their values and positions on important issues are when they’re about to make a purchase.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 8,000 consumers. There were 1,000 respondents in each of the 8 markets: Brazil; China; France; Germany; India; Japan; the UK; and the US.

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