Consumers in Emerging Markets Are Even More Cause-Centric Than Western Counterparts

The annual GoodPurpose Report was released today, spelling out consumer preferences in emerging markets like India and China.



Consumers in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, and China are staunch supporters of cause marketing and branding–even more so than their counterparts in the West–according to Edelman’s 2010 GoodPurpose Report. Over 7,000 people were surveyed for the annual global study.

Protecting the environment and improving health care were at the top of consumer priorities in terms of causes, followed by stopping domestic violence and reducing poverty. And 87% of those surveyed globally expect companies to consider societal interests equal to business interests.

“The emerging markets research is particularly important as these are the markets that speak to the future of consumerism as we know it,” says Mitch Markson, Chief Creative Officer and founder of Edelman’s goodpurpose™ initiative. “Citizen consumers in India, China and Brazil will set a new standard for how business and society merge to form a new type of global citizenship and marketplace that is both purposeful and profitable.”

Purpose has thus emerged as the 5th “P” of marketing, according to the report. For four years running, when quality and price are equal, the number one purchase motivator for Americans remains social purpose–even over design & innovation and brand loyalty, says Markson. “Purpose is the only ‘P’ that fosters an emotional engagement between the brand and the consumer — something that both brands and consumers are looking for.”

80% of Indian consumers, for example, volunteer for a cause every 12 months, and 85% donate to a cause every 12 months. 81% of consumers in India and 89% of consumers in China say they are personally involved in supporting a good cause–and these numbers represent major increases over last year, says Markson.

But “cause” may be misunderstood or understood differently in many parts of the world. As a long-time resident of South Asia, I know first-hand that religious festivals and ceremonies–which happen daily or weekly–are times to give money, but that money is often handed over to priests and not necessarily to a charity. Do survey respondents in India have the same concept of “philanthropy” as we do in the West? And does buying products from “good brands” simply translate to companies without corruption?


This will become clearer in the next 10 years, especially since sector-specific industries, such as pharmaceuticals, are beginning to emerge from the ground up in countries like India and China. Their practices–and consumer support for those Asian-born brands–will be the real test of just how ethical emerging global companies are, and whether consumers in emerging markets are able to differentiate between real impact and the green-washing that we’ve already seen in the West.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.