Brand Purpose Seen Lacking. CMOs to the Rescue?

July 7, 2016

Edelman-Strength-Consumer-Brand-Relationships-Jul2016Brands are failing consumers’ expectations when it comes to purpose and engagement, according to a report from Edelman entitled “The Earned Brand.” The study built a Brand Relationship Index based on consumers’ involvement with their favorite brands across 7 dimensions. Dimensions associated with brand purpose and engagement were the lowest-rated of the 7.

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Before delving into more specifics, a couple of notes on the methodology. To arrive at its Relationship Index, Edelman surveyed 13,000 consumers across 13 countries. Respondents rated their favorite brand within 3 random categories presented (of 18 potential ones), with a stipulation that the brand be one they currently own, use or make purchases from. Respondents then gave each of those brands a rating on the strength of their relationship across 7 dimensions. Those figures were then averaged across consumers to arrive at a score for each dimension. The results follow, from strongest to weakest dimension:

  • Embodies unique character: 44 (on a 100-point scale);
  • Builds trust at every touchpoint: 42;
  • Invites sharing, inspires partnership: 39;
  • Makes its mark: 38;
  • Listens openly, responds selectively: 35;
  • Tells a memorable story (34); and
  • Acts with purpose (33).

The composite score across the 7 dimensions was 38, though it differed by country. Consumers in China (53) and India (52) appear to have the most involved relationships with brands, while those in the Netherlands (30) are the least involved. Respondents in the US were slightly above-average, with a composite score of 40. Composite scores also varied by age group, with Millennials (22-36) giving brands the highest score (44) and composite scores falling among older age groups.

Meanwhile, the company types that consumers have the most involved relationships with across those 7 dimensions were social media (43), automobile (43) and fashion (42), with utilities (33) and OTC medicines (33) at the bottom of the heap.

Interestingly, consumers that are the most involved with brands (giving higher composite scores) are the most likely to engage with brands via owned and earned (social, reviews) media than through paid advertising. By contrast, less committed consumers generally engage with brands more through paid media.

Can CMOs Drive Brand Purpose?

One of the interesting findings from the Edelman study was that consumer ratings of brands were lowest for the “purpose” dimension.

A new study from Forbes Insights and EY, entitled “Deriving value from purpose,” delves into this topic and the essential role that the CMO plays in brand purpose. Based on a global survey of 217 executives, the study indicates that only 29% of companies say that purpose is of primary importance to their companies, though that figure rises to 40% among CMOs surveyed.

CMOs tend to see the value of “purpose” in intangible terms, unlike CEOs. The most common of these sources of value include enhancing the brand, promoting trust in the company, and creating a clearer sense of shared purpose.

While the CEO was most commonly identified by respondents as being a key decision-maker or strong influencer of the development and articulation of purpose, the CMO was close behind, with 89% of respondents citing the CMO as having one of those roles. In fact, almost half of executives (45%) believe that purpose is the top priority for CMOs, and 42% of CMOs agree.

As the analysts write, “articulating and activating purpose is now a critical component of the CMO’s responsibilities.”

As such, a majority of the executives surveyed for the report believe that CMOs should take the lead in maintaining consistency in external communications (68%) and driving consistency across customer experience (55%). There’s also a strong sentiment that CMOs should collaborate in: the continuous evaluation and improvement of purpose group-wide (60%); goal setting, performance metrics and reward systems (54%); ongoing measurement of the value of purpose (52%); and training across all functions, such as production and finance (51%). In other words, executives believe that CMOs should collaborate it – and at times lead – activities that go beyond purely marketing.

Further displaying that cross-functional collaboration, the survey results show that a majority of executives believe that CMOs should exert at least some influence on:

  • Directing core business strategy as it relates to purpose (82% citing);
  • Advising business on core choices such as diversity, ingredients and sourcing (77%); and
  • Evaluating new and existing products for “fit” with purpose (80%).


With brands seemingly not meeting consumers’ expectations with regards to their purpose, it seems that CMOs have their work cut out for them.

About the Data: The Edelman survey was fielded in April 2016 among 13,000 respondents, 1,000 in each of the following countries: Brazil; Canada; China; France; Germany; India; Japan; Mexico; the Netherlands; Singapore; the UK; and the US.

The Brand Relationship Index was calculated by taking the average of the seven dimension scores and multiplying by twenty to convert the index to a 100-point scale. The 2016 Global Brand Relationship score of 38 represents the average Brand Relationship Index across the 39,000 (13,000 x3) consumer-brand relationships analyzed.

The Forbes Insights and EY study is based on a global survey of 217 executives, 22% of whom are CMOs. Respondents hailed from various regions and a variety of industries. All respondents came from companies with at least $500 million in annual sales.

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