There’s a new urgency in the marketplace: to appeal to values-driven consumers. 

When Forrester first started discussing the importance of corporate values many years ago, we were met with both support and skepticism. “Consumers only care about the cheapest products,” skeptics told us. “Companies only care about maximizing shareholder returns,” they said. But as recent events in the public and private sectors have shown us, we weren’t so wrong after all. 

Consider this: Public relations agency Weber Shandwick found that 51% of US Millennials are more likely to buy from a company led by a CEO who speaks out on an issue they agree with. Universal McCann’s insight director sums it up best: “People look to brands to behave as moral guardians.” 

In today’s volatile political climate, this holds especially true. Following the racially-charged protests in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month and a reaction from the White House that many perceived as equivocal, Merck’s CEO, Kenneth Frazier, stepped down from President Trump’s manufacturing council. The CEO initially received praise on Twitter – “Your employees have a CEO with great moral fiber,” wrote one user. Council members who were slower to react or whose statements weren’t as direct as Mr. Frazier’s drew criticism on social media. As a member of our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community told us, “The days of being neutral are over.”

Beyond this specific, highly charged event, there is a broader movement for CEOs to talk about the values their companies stand for. The title of this recent New York Times article captures the essence of this trend: “Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for Moral Responsibility.” 

Forrester is building a body of research to help our clients navigate this tricky area. Follow along as I, along with my colleagues Henry Peyret and Anjali Lai, continue our research into values-based consumers and how brands can respond. The next installment of our webinar series, “Values-Based Consumers, Part 2: How To Navigate A Values Strategy,” will be on October 24. Register for the webinar here, and schedule an inquiry with us if you’re interested in learning more.