Ranking brands by their power to inspire around purpose
Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.
— Larry Fink, BlackRock
Today, we released the third annual edition of our World Value Index — research that looks at how brands inspire around purpose. The World Value Index measures the extent to which Americans are inspired by brands’ missions — and the extent to which that inspiration drives active support and purchase. (Fast Company covered the launch, here)
Creating value in the world today is not just about selling things, but also inspiring people around a greater mission. The ability to mobilize people is powerful. Ideally, an organization’s mission inspires people to use their power — purchasing power and power to advocate — to actively support the brand. Wikipedia inspired people to use their power; Encyclopedia Britannica did not. National Geographic is inspiring people to love their environment; Monsanto is not.
By doing this research, we aim to shed new light on value creation, and prompt reflection and debate on how organizations can create more, enduring value for themselves, and the world.
For the past six years, our team has built mission-driven brands and shared missions. But there was never a clear way to measure the extent to which people were inspired by companies’ missions, and so a major component of value creation was being overlooked. That’s why we created the World Value Index.
So, as you read the World Value Index, we hope you ask yourself these questions:
- Are the organizations I am part of inspiring people to use their power — not just purchasing power — to actively support the mission?
- Could we be doing more to inspire and engage people around our purpose, and thereby create more value?
The Top 10 nonprofits
The Top 10 businesses
The World Value Index ranking
For the third edition of our study, we expanded and diversified the 150 brands on our list to 200. This includes an increased number of nonprofits, the addition of cultural institutions and organizations like the NRA and the UN, and culturally relevant social movements that have come to be identified as brands (Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Women’s March, etc.).
We also expanded the set of ‘Zeitgeist’ research topics, which assess today’s cultural context in America, and — for the first time — we surveyed the perceived World Value of individuals like Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, Rihanna, and the Pope. We will release these topics later this year.
What themes are jumping out at us this year?
1. The all-conquering value of convenience to Americans
Amazon is the only for-profit brand that landed in the overall Top 10 this year. What does that say about people’s perception of “purpose” and “mission”? Look no further than Amazon’s mission statement — consumer convenience is king:
“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
People’s support and alignment with the value of convenience is so strong that Amazon outranked brands like Boys and Girls Club, Save the Children, and Girl Scouts of the USA. It’s no secret that accessibility and ease are driving forces in impacting purchase, but to see them at the top of a “World Value” list sandwiched between humanitarian organizations is significant. Even Google’s latest campaign asks people to “Make Google Do it.” Convenience has become more than just an amenity — it’s a societal value.
At enso, we’re asking ourselves: can convenience be compatible with healthy communities, and sound environmental practices over the long term?
2. The subjective nature of ‘purpose’
For people that hold Tesla, Kickstarter, Annie’s Homegrown and the like as beacons of mission-driven business, it’s a striking realization that they score much lower than we might have expected. The reason is they all skew strongly towards higher-income people.
As a Santa Monica-based company, the World Value Index has been useful in opening our eyes to how niche some purpose-oriented pioneer brands are — including some of our favorites like REI and Patagonia. In our world, they’re leaders in the space of infusing mission and purpose into brand and business model. Digging through the data, that perspective shifts and settles into an important reminder: the perceived importance of a brand’s purpose is highly subjective, and varies significantly across different segments of the population. What might be supremely motivating to some, is irrelevant to others. In the marketplace of people’s perception, the most noble mission around climate health will face stiff competition from a convenience-focused mission.
At enso, we view this as a challenge: how can mainstream brands become beacons of mission-driven business, rather than just the elite brands?
3. Seeking comfort in troubled times
We saw very high rankings for some classic brands whose values have stood the test of time: National Geographic, Johnson & Johnson, the Olympics, Campbell’s Soup. According to our Zeitgeist data, only 40% of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction (and only 13% feel strongly about that), while trust in business leaders and trust in political leaders is at historic lows (36% and 27%, respectively). So perhaps in troubled times, we’re turning to brands that stand for traditional values we’re
not seeing elsewhere in culture. When you can’t bear to turn on the news, Campbell’s Soup probably helps.
Which begs the question: while many businesses have kept their values under wraps, what’s the business opportunity in leading more strongly with timeless human values that provide comfort in troubled times?
Taking a closer look
For brands, we’re able to look deeply at the understanding and resonance of brands’ purpose across demographic and psychographic segments.
An example of the analysis we can look at, for travel brands:
For deeper details on the methodology and key findings, you can download the report at: enso.co/worldvalue
If you’re interested in learning more about your brand and competitors, or have questions or observations about the World Value Index, reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.
enso is a creative impact agency.
We work with innovative companies and organizations to create positive impact at scale through shared missions. Learn more at enso.co.