Purpose is one of three critical dimensions of overall reputation, according to the “2018 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Premium Index: How Companies Can Unlock Reputational Gains by Leading with Purpose,” produced by CONE, a Porter Novelli Co., Boston, Mass. The study, which examines consumer perceptions of the Top 200 U.S. companies, also finds purpose and reputation as intrinsically linked.

The research revealed there is a strong correlation between purpose and reputation, as these scores moved together for nearly nine out of every 10 companies (88%) ranked. In fact, of the Top 10 leaders named on both the purpose and reputation lists, four companies landed on both lists.

“As we’ve seen repeatedly in 2018, corporate reputation is painstakingly curated, carefully protected and easily lost. When it comes to reputation scores, every point up or down matters to both the consumer and also affects long-term business performance and value,” says Justin Greeves, executive vice president, global research and services for Porter Novelli. “The purpose premium is the extra reputational boost a company gains by leading with purpose and edging out its competitors in a world where what a brand stands for increasingly matters to the consumer.”

Reputation driven by quality, vision and purpose

To better understand reputation, the index was aggregated into correspondent elements under three overarching dimensions—quality, vision and purpose. Quality represented the largest portion of overall reputation, accounting for 65%. Elements of the quality dimension included reliability, security, trustworthiness and affordability. Vision accounted for 18% of reputation, under which consumers prioritized categories such as innovation, profitability and creativity.

Purpose is the final major dimension of reputation. Comprising 13% of a company’s overall reputation, the purpose premium can boost overall reputation to edge out competitors and build vital brand affinity among consumers.

It’s important for companies to act responsibly and give back

Consumers want companies to act, care and advocate. When it comes to what purpose attributes are most important to reputation, Americans prioritize companies that are:

  • Responsible (86%)
  • Caring (85%)
  • Advocates for issues (81%)
  • Environmental stewards (79%)
  • Philanthropic (73%)

“Purpose itself is a multifaceted concept in the eyes of Americans,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, purpose and CSR, CONE. “As we peel back the onion, we see consumers first expect companies to operate responsibly. However, they also want to know that companies truly care, and this means advocating for issues that are important to them, as well as supporting social and environmental causes.”

Americans more engaged, more willing to try purpose-driven brands

Not only do Americans think well of purpose-driven companies, but they are also willing to reward them in a number of ways. Companies with a higher purpose ranking compared to their laggard peers will reap greater benefits, as consumers are:

  • One-third more likely to try a new product/service.
  • 50% more likely to switch to a new product offered.
  • 50% more likely to support a move of that company into their community.

Purpose leaders will also benefit by cultivating more engaged audiences. Consumers are significantly more likely to consume content from companies with higher purpose rankings. They are:

  • Nearly twice as likely to read social media posts from higher purpose-ranked companies.
  • Two times more likely to read or skim their annual report.
  • More than two times more likely to read or skim their sustainability report.

“We see from these findings that purpose is a way of communicating shared values with stakeholders and getting a business benefit at the same time. A company is not just judged by what it makes or how much it makes, but also by how it conducts itself in our society,” says Greeves. “We intuitively knew this, but now we can demonstrate its true impact and show companies how to lead the way on the many dimensions that matter.”

About the research

The 2018 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Premium Index presents the findings of an online survey designed and executed in July 2018 among an online sample of 6,000 Americans, including 2,929 men and 3,071 women, ages 18 and over. The study was fielded by Critical Mix, Westport, Conn., and the data are weighted in aggregate by age, region, income, gender and ethnicity to be nationally representative. The margin of error associated with the total sample is ± 1.27 at a 95% level of confidence. The sampling of America’s top 200 companies is based upon the Fortune 200 list, compiled annually by Forbes Magazine.