How 'corpsumers' are changing the way people shop

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Experts say these consumers value a company's ethics over its products

Since the early 2000’s, retailers like TOMS have popularized the concept of a company whose brand identity centers on philanthropy and responsible use of resources. Now, public relations firm MWWPR says they’ve inspired a new type of buyer that’s dominating the U.S. consumer landscape: the “corpsumer”.

The firm’s study describes this group as shoppers who care as much about company reputation or ethical stance as product quality or value, and they account for a whopping one-third of the U.S. population; approximately 100 million people.

This consumer segment is “bigger than so many of the segments that brands target -- bigger than millennials, bigger than moms,” said MWWPR chief strategy officer Careen Winters.


According to MWWPR, corpsumers tend to be:

  • Well-educated

  • Employed full time

  • High income earners

  • Parents

  • Millennials / Gen X-ers

Additionally, a key characteristic of this group is strongly-held values. Corpsumers are fiercely loyal to companies with values and priorities similar to their own. More than half (51 percent) will stick with a product that has disappointed them because they believe in what the company stands for.

This loyalty also translates to a willingness to spend more -- 67 percent will pay full price for something from a company they believe in, rather than purchase the same product at a discounted price from a different vendor.

"Corpsumers bring together two of the most valued attributes of any customer -- loyalty and activism -- providing a one-two punch for growth in an increasingly competitive market," Winters said.

Brand advocates

The emergence of the corpsumer has prompted companies to work harder at cultivating a positive reputation instead of focusing solely on product features and attributes -- and with good reason.

This consumer segment tends to be highly engaged and optimistic, ready to advocate for what they believe in. A majority (89 percent) are likely to share positive news about companies. More than half of corpsumers regularly utilize social media to voice their opinions about news, current events, and cultural issues pertaining to companies and brands several times a week.

On the flip side, they are also eager to dissuade their peers from supporting a brand. Three-quarters of corpsumers (74 percent) have encouraged someone to give up or not use a product because of the company’s reputation.

To reach these values-driven consumers, food companies have begun advertising their use of ingredients like using cage-free eggs or Wendy’s “sustainable beef.” Yoplait’s latest ad campaign set out to curry the favor of women -- one of the yogurt brand’s key demographics -- by encouraging moms to ignore the judgement of others and “Mom On.”

How corpsumerism impacts business

Winters points out that brands and marketers who successfully harness the power of the corpsumer will likely see their effort reflected in the areas of pricing, loyalty, and brand evangelism.

"Corpsumers represent the ultimate example of the increasing value of a customer over a lifetime, both in terms of their own purchases and in the new customers they help brands acquire through their advocacy and activism,” she said.

The latter may be especially good for business, since -- according to Harvard Business School Press -- a 12 percent increase in advocacy represents a 200 percent increase in revenue growth.

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