Purpose Messages Evoke Greater Attention, Arousal and Emotion, According to First-of-its-Kind Biometrics Research by Porter Novelli/Cone




                        Kevin Maloney

                        Porter Novelli






79% of Americans feel a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own


NEW YORK (May 29, 2019) – Americans are more likely to have a positive image of (89%), trust in (86%) and be loyal (83%) to brands that lead with Purpose, according to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study. This first-of-its-kind biometrics study, examines not only what consumers say they will do to support responsible brands, but also how they feel and physically react when exposed to Purpose-driven messaging.

“After tracking consumer data for more than 25 years, we’re confident the consumer appetite and demand for Purpose-driven brands continues to be strong,” says Brad MacAfee, CEO, Porter Novelli. “However, in this study, we wanted to explore the power of Purpose in creating deeper emotional connections with consumers, that then inspire them to act.”

The research combined an online study of more than 1,000 American adults with the results of biometrics testing among a select group of respondents. It measured facial, heart rate and skin conductance impulses that captured levels of emotion, attention and arousal/stimulation upon viewing a randomized set of advertisements. Respondents viewed two ads from the same brand – a Purpose-driven advertisement (e.g., support of a social issue, responsible business practice) and an advertisement focusing on the functional attributes of the product (e.g., performance, features or specifications). The research found that Purpose-driven messaging has a greater ability to capture the physical and emotional attention of respondents compared to functional narratives.

Purpose ignites physical and emotional responses

Brands that share Purpose messages evoke demonstrable heightened physical responses. The results of the biometrics study found the Purpose-driven advertisements were most effective in two-out-of-three brand categories tested – with higher levels of attention, emotion and arousal from these advertisements overall. Further, when the advertisements’ narrators homed in on the aim of each ad – either sharing the product attribute/functional message or Purpose-driven message, the Purpose narrative outperformed among all three advertisement sets – with increased attention and arousal, and in cases, more positive emotion. In comparison, during the functional narratives, attention wavered, arousal often decreased and in one instance, respondents felt a negative emotion bordering on annoyance.

Purpose builds deeper bonds

By leading with Purpose and connecting with consumers on shared values, companies are poised to build significant and lasting relationships with individuals. Nearly eight-in-10 (79%) Americans say they feel a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own. And, nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers believe Purpose-driven companies care about them and their families more. 

During the biometrics survey, when asked about each of the advertisements they were exposed to, participants overwhelmingly felt better about the companies behind the Purpose-driven ads. Respondents also felt the Purpose-driven advertisements were more unique, and in two-out-of-three instances, inspired more trust. The exception to this rule was an automotive advertisement, where a narrative around functional and safety features led respondents to trust the car brand more. However, in all three cases, respondents readily agreed they felt a more positive emotional connection to the brands behind the Purpose messages.

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“Through conducting biometrics research, we see the power of Purpose messages to break through and resonate with consumers on a deeper level,” says Alison DaSilva, EVP, Purpose, Porter Novelli/Cone. “Purpose-first communications spark an often-unconscious physical reaction by speaking to the hearts and minds of consumers, ultimately forming deeper emotional connections by appealing to individual values and what matters most.”

Purpose inspires brand advocates and amplification

The emotional bonds formed by leading with Purpose inspires individuals to promote the brand in many ways:

·        72% - Feel proud to be associated with the brand (e.g., wearing the company logo)

·        74% - Tell others to buy products from that company

·        62% - Share information about that company on their social networks

These ardent supporters are also keen to support Purpose-driven companies even in tough times. Seventy-five percent of Americans said they’d be more willing to forgive a company if it makes a misstep, and the same amount (75%) would defend that company if someone spoke badly of it.

The biometrics research proved Purpose-driven advertisements also led to greater propensity for respondents to become promoters on behalf of the brand. After viewing the Purpose-driven advertisements, respondents were then inspired to talk, share and advocate for these companies. In all three advertisement sets, respondents said they’d be more likely to talk about the advertisement and the brand with friends and family and share and discuss the advertisement on social media.

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Purpose creates audiences primed to take action

Americans indicate support of Purpose-driven companies in ways that will directly impact a company’s bottom-line – as nearly nine-in-10 (86%) consumers say they are likely to purchase from these companies. Beyond using their wallets, Purpose becomes a key consideration in where to work and what companies to invest in. Americans are motivated to support these companies in the following ways:

·        86% - Purchase products and services from that company

·        81% - Support that company in their community

·        70% - Want to work for that company

·        64% - Want to invest in that company

Here, the biometrics research produced divergent results. When asked about the propensity to purchase, biometrics participants felt they’d be more likely to choose the advertisement featuring the product attributes in two of the three categories.

“When a company authentically communicates and delivers upon its Purpose, it will capture the hard-to-secure attention, favorability and trust of consumers. But it alone won’t trigger a sale,” says DaSilva. “Companies must find the right balance of sharing both their Purpose and functional product benefits to drive purchase. Equally important is that these messages are backed up with strong programs and policies. Consumers will do research and due diligence to make sure a company claiming it leads with Purpose is walking the talk and living upon those values – both internally and externally.”

Americans feel the urgency to support Purpose-driven brands

There’s a clear reason Americans feel a strong sense of loyalty toward companies that pursue Purpose. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans say that in today’s uncertain social and political times, they feel an urgency to support issues in every way they can. And that sense of urgency is filtering into the brands consumers want to engage with. In fact, 72 percent of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values. And supporting these organizations helps Americans feel they are contributing to issues that are important to them:

·        79% say supporting companies that have similar values is a way for them to show the world they care

·        76% say supporting companies that are addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel they’re doing their part

This push to support companies with values that align with consumers’ own also contributes to a shift in how Americans view businesses’ role in society evolving. Today, more than three-quarters (76%) of Americans believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to just make money; they expect them to positively impact society, as well. And although the majority believe companies should address issues that impact – or are impacted by – the business directly, such as the environment or human rights, the scope of a responsible business also extends beyond this. Americans believe companies should address:

·        86% - Issues that directly impact, or are impacted by, the business

·        79% - Issues that are important to them personally

·        75% - Issues that are widely discussed in news and society

“In a time where consumers feel a heightened sense of urgency to address the issues they see as critical, they are looking to embrace brands that share those same values,” says MacAfee. “Now more than ever, brands that lead with Purpose can connect with consumers on the values that matter most to them – forming an emotional connection that builds deeper bonds, inspires brand advocates and ignites action that transcends any transactional relationship.”


About the Research

The 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study is a multi-methodology study that presents the findings of an online survey conducted by Toluna from March 21-26, 2019 among a random sample of 1,193 American adults age 18+, comprising 510 males and 683 females. The margin of error for a sample of this size is ± 3% at a 95% level of confidence. The study also presents the findings of biometrics research conducted by HCD Research among a random sample of 21 American adults ages 23-38, comprising 10 males and 11 females. Participants were hooked up to biometric sensors (facial EMG [electromyography], heart rate and GSR [galvanic skin response] sensors) synced with eye tracking software to help gain an aggregate understanding into consumers’ subconscious reactions to testing stimuli. Participants were also asked to fill out a brief survey about the testing stimuli to help gain an understanding into their conscious reactions.

About Porter Novelli & Cone

Porter Novelli is a global public relations agency born from the idea that the art of communication can advance society. More than 45 years ago, we opened our doors – and people's eyes and minds – for brands driven to make a positive impact. Today, we believe that organizations must find, live and tell their Purpose in order to thrive. Those companies will motivate action, secure loyalty and encourage advocacy — all in service to a healthier bottom line.

In 2017, Cone joined Porter Novelli, and the next year formed the world’s largest dedicated Global Purpose Practice. Together, with a collective 80 years of experience and more than 100 subject matter experts, Porter Novelli and Cone help more than 140 organizations define their authentic Purpose, weaving it into the brand DNA to both grow the business and positively impact the world. Our deep subject matter expertise in Purpose Brand Strategy, CSR, Social Marketing, Social Impact and Brand Communications creates breakthrough work and unforgettable experiences to ignite action around issues that matter. For additional information, please visit www.porternovelli.com/. Porter Novelli is a part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.

About Omnicom Public Relations Group

Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.