An Inside Look at Mission-Driven Brands and Why They’re Winning

Over the last several years, it’s become evident that it takes more than just quality products for eCommerce businesses to succeed, especially for those looking to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Along with creating authentic experiences, part of their ethos must be the values and beliefs that they commit to. 

Today’s consumers are embracing social causes and seeking out brands and products that align with their values and lifestyles. See how mission-driven brands like Patagonia, Allbirds, and others are connecting deeper with their buyers and paving the way for a new way to do business.  

Purpose-Driven Consumers Shift Towards Social Causes 

Globally, 63% of consumers prefer to buy goods and services from companies that stand for a shared purpose that reflects their personal values and beliefs. [Supermarket News]

Over 70% of consumers say it’s at least moderately important that brands offer “clean” products (78%), are sustainable and environmentally responsible (77%), support recycling (76%), or use natural ingredients (72%). [IBM]

But, social responsibility goes beyond just sustainability and environmental impact. 

62% of consumers globally want companies to take a stand on the social, cultural, environmental, and political issues close to their hearts. [Supermarket News]

Consumers are also seeking out brands that focus on social issues like diversity and inclusion, helping marginalized populations, increasing accessibility, or charitable donations. 

There’s hundreds of mission-driven brands both big and small looking to fulfill consumers’ desires. Here’s some examples of leading mission-driven brands and their commitments:

  • Patagonia — Sustainable and environmental (outdoor apparel and goods) 
  • Allbirds — Carbon offset (shoes) 
  • Rothy’s — Putting the planet and people first (shoes)
  • Love, Vera— Diverse and inclusive employees and models; embrace both size and racial diversity (lingerie) 
  • Sozy — 10% of profits help both survivors of sexual violence and environmental issues (apparel) 
  • United by Blue — Sustainability and waterway protection (outdoor apparel and goods)
  • Bombas — Donations to the homeless (apparel)
  • Boyish Jeans — Sustainable women’s denim and clothing brand (apparel)
  • Cheekbone Beauty — Sustainable beauty brand on a mission to empower Indigenous communities (cosmetics)

Who Shops Mission-Driven Brands? 

More than 80% of millennials rank making the world a better place as a priority in their life. [Forbes]

And it’s these younger generations (Millennials and now Gen Z) driving the desire to shop with brands that align with their values. 

62% of younger consumers prefer to shop for sustainable and green products compared to 53% of middle aged consumers and 44% for older consumers. [Shopify]

Among millennials and Gen Zers, 55% are more likely to make a purchase if it’s accompanied by a charitable donation, while 42% of Gen Xers and 31% of baby boomers and traditionalists (the generation before) are influenced by this option. [Shopify]

Important Traits of Mission-Driven Brands 

When you look at genuine mission-driven brands, you’ll find these common traits among them: 

1. Community and Conversations 

Today’s consumers want to be part of a community that fits their lifestyle and values. Mission-driven organizations are bigger than just a brand. They’re helping foster real conversations and experiences with their followers. 

67% of consumers believe their actions can influence a brand or company. [Volition Capital]

2. Authenticity

Most of us are tired of over stylized campaigns and unsubstantial marketing claims. Instead, mission-driven brands focus on user-generated content that depicts real lifestyles and voices. And, users are quick to call out companies who miss the mark. 

A majority of consumers disappointed by a company’s words or actions will complain publicly. 17% will never come back. [Volition Capital]

3. Transparency

Transparency goes a long way in building trust with your customers. They want radical transparency into your business operations, production methods, sourcing, environmental impact, and more.

71% of consumers indicated that traceability is very important to them and they’re willing to pay a premium for brands that provide it. And, consumers across all age groups will conduct extensive research prior to making their purchases— regardless of how much they trust a brand. [IBM]

If they’re going to spend a premium on your brand, it better be for the real deal. 

4. Storytelling

Most of us are bogged down in automations and increasing digital touch points. Mission-driven brands stand out in their ability to connect on a deeper emotional level with their customers and communicate through storytelling. They’re able to “be human” in an overly digital world. 

Storytelling can be 22 times more memorable than facts. [Forbes]

When “Mission-Based” Brands Fall Short on Their Commitments 

When consumers choose a product with sustainability in mind, 84% say brand trust is important. [IBM]

Unfortunately, some brands have used sustainability as a hot trend to capitalize on— also known as greenwashing. These brands use familiar terms or jargon to attract (and mislead) conscious-minded buyers, but without full transparency of their products and processes. Instead, it’s a marketing campaign moment rather than an actual mission. 

For example, there’s been a handful of brands called out for their misleading “green” claims

  • Windex alluding that their products are “non-toxic” when they still contain irritants, harsh chemicals, and combustibles, according to lawsuits.
  • Tide’s pureclean misleading as “plant-based” when it’s only 75% plant-based and 25% non-plant-based including petroleum.
  • Nestlé’s “sustainability sourced cocoa beans” that others have challenged as actually driving massive deforestation in West Africa or sourced from farms that use child and slave labor. 

LA-based denim brand Boyish Jeans recently spoke out against greenwashing in an ad campaign and made an effort to bring transparency to their own practices in their annual sustainability report.

Once you break this trust with consumers, it’s hard to win it back. 

Mission-Driven Brands Drive Loyalty 

Mission-driven brands across almost every niche are connecting with their audiences on a deeper level. Consumers aren’t purchasing from them to rack up loyalty points or rewards. Instead, consumers are looking to join a movement and drive change in their communities that they want to see. 

Going forward, mission-driven brands that actually foster change and stick to their word will win. 
Check out other ways that consumers are changing their habits in preferences for eCommerce in 2021.

Jillian Hufford
Jillian Hufford has over seven years of educating merchants on digital commerce and marketing growth strategies and best practices. She is a frequent author and thought contributor on DTC and B2B commerce, SaaS software, and B2B content marketing. She also contributes regularly to CMSWire. Connect with Jillian on LinkedIn: @JillianHufford

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