Driving Purchase Intent for the Conscious Consumer in the Modern World

product of the year
Mike Nolan, CEO of Product of the Year USA

“All communication must lead to change.” – Aristotle

With social media and “shareable culture” thriving with no end in sight, consumer awareness across channels has increased exponentially, having an undeniable effect on shopping choices. Consumers are constantly sharing their favorite new grocery finds, the evolution of their spring-cleaning routine, best vegetarian options — the list is endless — and social media and digital connectiveness continue to be the platform for the ultimate word of mouth marketing.

The increase of this social dialogue also comes with a rise in the consciousness surrounding products and the companies behind them. Perhaps the beginning of the modern-day conscious consumer can be traced to The Buy American Act of 1933. Signed by President Herbert Hoover on his last day in office, it required the federal government to buy American-made iron, steel and manufactured goods wherever possible.

Fast forward to today where price and quality obviously still matter, the conscious consumer’s buying habits are also measured and shaped by their social, economic and environmental concerns. More than ever, consumers see power and influence in their ability to vote with their dollar. To that end, there’s an opportunity to collectively harness these touchpoints into a recognizable symbol and call to action to indicate that peers, not just “experts,” have already done the homework for you. (We know this firsthand as Product of the Year winners are chosen by the votes of 40,000 U.S. consumers.)


On Oct. 18-20 in Chicago, Stop by the Product of the Year (POY) booth on the P2PI LIVE & Expo show floor to learn about entering the 2023 Product of the Year Awards — the largest consumer-voted award for product innovation, where winners are chosen by the votes of 40,000 American shoppers. Chat with the POY team, enter to win daily giveaways, and enjoy goodies and surprise activations throughout the conference.

Looking ahead, companies and retailers alike are thinking about what’s next, especially as uncertainty looms with inflation, the job market and politically, both here and abroad. Brands need to stay hyper-focused on all of their communication channels and touchpoints to meet consumer needs.

Again, price, quality, convenience — these are all table stakes. To establish and grow their relationship with the conscious consumer, brands need to innovate and demonstrate they’re worthy of the vote that doesn’t happen on Election Day, but instead happens every day at cash registers and online shopping carts around the world.

To find a path to the hearts and minds of the conscious consumer is to look to Greek philosopher, Aristotle — whose ethos (ethical appeal), pathos (emotional appeal) and logos (logical appeal) are the bedrock of persuasive communication.

With that in mind, here are three boxes brands need to check if they want to drive purchase intent for conscious consumers:

Consciousness, like charity, starts at home (Ethos). The pandemic is a powerful catalyst for the rise of the wellness movement with consumers looking for better-for-you products as it relates to diet, exercise, non-toxic ingredients and more. A greater emphasis is placed on health and well-being (both physical and mental), and shoppers have increased their personal mindfulness when purchasing products. To adapt to this consumer sentiment, brands have implemented strategies such as plant-based food and eco-friendly packaging, to name a few. According to Kantar (the independent third-party research firm that polls the 40,000 consumers who vote on the Product of the Year winners), the rapid disruption by exciting new brands inspires a new equation of trust — integrity, identification, inclusion — underscoring the importance for brands to appeal to consumer ethos.

Purpose-driven mission (Pathos). Purpose-driven companies look beyond the profit of their products or services and prioritize making a difference in the world. Charitable organizations, American-manufactured companies, sustainable practices, people of color and women-owned businesses, etc., are proven to pique consumer interest and purchase intent. Companies that lead with a purposeful mission also increase customer loyalty and stand out from competitors with impactful differentiators. 

Innovation is key (Logos). With the world evolving at unprecedented speed, consumers are constantly looking for newer, smarter, better products. Brands must stay in step with (the best ones will stay ahead of) consumer trends to meet this demand and continuously innovate to retain consumer stickiness. Not only does innovation imply newness, but it also means creativity, which is imperative to be prominent among the competitor landscape.

The final thing I’d offer for your consideration is that, while you may deem yourself in the retail or manufacturing business, I’d argue we’re all in the service business — in service of the consumer. Advocating with and for them is key because at the end of the day they’re the ones demanding and driving innovation, ultimately deciding who among us are to be market winners or market losers.

About the Author: Mike Nolan is the CEO of Product of the Year USA. Currently operating in more than 40 countries around the world, Product of the Year is the largest consumer-voted award for product innovation. U.S. winners are determined by the votes of 40,000 consumers in an independent, nationally representative study conducted by premier global research company Kantar.