Research has shown that brands that communicate a sense of purpose beyond purely commercial aims grow twice as fast as those without any higher-order societal aims. The data comes from the Purpose 2020 study from Kantar Consulting, part of advertising and public relations firm WPP’s data investment management division.

“Between revenue and social footprint many brands now have more power than elected leaders, and there is a clear expectation from consumers that this power is used for positive change,” says Robert Jan d’Hond, global lead, brand practice. “Brands need to aim high to find a meaning beyond the category while navigating the terrain at ground level without stumbling. That means identifying a long-term societal tension that is relevant but unique while staying true to the brand and company.”

For its study, Kantar Consulting surveyed more than 20,000 consumers and conducted 100 interviews with leading brands. It found that brands with a high sense of purpose have seen their brand valuation increase by 175 percent over the past 12 years compared to a median growth rate of 86 percent and a growth rate of 70 percent for brands with a low sense of purpose.

While 76 percent of marketing leaders believe their organization has a defined purpose, only one in 10 actually have a corporate purpose statement backed by a meaningful activation plan. And although two-thirds of them believe that purpose delivers long-term growth, only one third believe purpose is regarded as a “company-wide movement” within their company.

Kantar also notes that its study found that almost two thirds of Millennials and younger consumers express a preference for “brands that have a point of view and stand for something.”

The full Purpose 2020 study and an on-demand webinar are available here.