When it comes to meaningful brand experiences, consumer demand has never been higher. In a recent study involving more than 395,000 people and 2,000 brands worldwide, Havas Media provided valuable insights into the ever-changing cultural landscape and its broad impact on consumer behavior.
Consumer priorities have changed.
The global pandemic, the spread of political divisions, and growing distrust of the media and advertising platforms have led to an increase in cynicism and often justified skepticism.
Simply put – people do not believe in what is sold to them.
The Hawass report highlights how much this has affected brand loyalty, with less than half of brands considered reliable, and the harsh reality that if 75% of brands disappeared tomorrow, consumers would simply switch to a competitor and move on as if nothing had happened.
Making a change: How can purposeful brands impact the world?
So, with all this doom and gloom, where is it up? What can global brands do to stop this growing wave of consumer dissatisfaction?
Well, it’s time to hear and meet the needs of an informed and marketing-aware public. One that values brands that make a positive contribution that benefits individuals, society and the environment.
Brands can contribute to true change
Gathering data from around the world, Havas ’study sought clarity on how brands can have a positive impact on people’s lives. This could range from simple product functionality to improving personal well-being or, through much broader objectives, a greater contribution to society as a whole.
Given that data collected during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not surprising that wider cynicism has evolved into a much more active distrust of brands, with 71% of people are tired of companies not keeping their promises.
And while this trend seemed to be common in Western markets – Australia reported that over 60% of people lost trust in brands – Eastern markets did not share the same disappointment, showing a brand confidence rate of 74% among study participants.
Let your values take center stage
So, with all this in mind, how can you build and maintain healthy trust among our markets?
There is no doubt that today’s consumers are an inflamed group. They are self-aware and more often than not, knowledgeable and passionate about many of the deeper issues of society.
Common practice of corporate social laundering – where companies want to profit community issues without taking any real action to correct their claims – what it really is has been revealed. It’s just a lie.
Let’s take a look at Shell, one of the world’s largest companies, and one that operates in an industry that many believe has a lot of answers in terms of environmental impact. Shell said they are committed to “using low-carbon energy products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Yet at the same time, their current business forecasts predict a 20% growth in the fossil gas business in the coming yearswith this energy source accounting for half of its energy business by 2030.
Empty statements like these provoke mistrust among consumers.
After all, the public wants to trust the brands they support. And if business owners stay true to their core messages and values while implementing those beliefs, they can increase their credibility and avoid the risk of negative press and the long-term effects of a damaged reputation.
While choosing a cause that is in line with your values may seem simple, choosing just the one that suits both your business and your clients can be a real challenge. The great thing about this, however, is that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one cause, value, or belief.
For those of you who want to make a change, a deeper immersion in the Havas report and exploring the 14 dimensions listed in the three basic pillars will help you pave your way to creating a more meaningful brand experience.
These three pillars are:
- Personal benefits
- Collective benefits
- Functional advantages
Here in the report you will find what is most important to consumers. At the moment, the driving feeling is that people are wary of companies that are not pulling their weight. This is represented in 73% of participants who say that brands must stop sitting idly by and make a change today if we all want to benefit.
And not only do these attitudes adhere in principle, with 53% of consumers willing to spend more to ensure they support a company that not only meets their functional needs but also takes a position that can be applied while doing so.
The strength lies in personal beliefs
A Havas study has shown that brands often give priority to functionality, security and value over anything else. They believe this leads to the opening of customers ’wallets.
But recent changes in consumer behavior have shown that a commitment to personal gain, such as life fulfillment and happiness, plays a much bigger role in the way people spend their money.
Combining this with society’s broader collective thinking about ethics, social justice and transparency, it would not be wise to ignore how this affects the behavior of your market.
The pandemic seems to have reinforced these beliefs, with greater stress, isolation, and hardship leading to stronger community ideals and people seeking more useful, progressive, and meaningful experiences.
From the top down, brands are now expected to not only provide function and form, but help enrich their communities and make life easier.
While this will not happen overnight, these expectations are not impossible. Consumers want to feel truly connected to the community. And while this is by no means a new concept, the idea of the industry leading the way in enabling these on-site talks certainly is. As consumer responses are listed in Havas studythis desire for increased connection is needed more than ever.
By committing to greater engagement through social media and sponsored community events, companies have stepped up this as a critical part not only of their own future success but also the success of their community.
Gene Z and its commitment to identity and expression
It may seem obvious, but supporting causes that are actually aligned with your brand values makes it much easier to keep promises and direction. In this way, you can build stronger connections with your market, ensuring the longevity and commitment of those who support your brand.
Remember, consumers simply would not care that 75% of brands disappear. While this is an amazing statistic, it shows one vital aspect of consumer behavior – they are waiting for brands that truly represent their personal values and that want to make a difference in the world. Achieve this lofty goal and you will have their support in the foreseeable future.
And while changing business practices can be a daunting task – and may seem easier to avoid discussion altogether – it’s important to remember that 27% of Generation Z consumers (ages 6 to 24) believe deviating from the norm and showing active rebellion is essential importance when it comes to expressing yourself.
This is reflected in the brands they will look out for, with 55% of Generation Z now looking for brands that allow them to be true.
Staying true to your identity is a key part of Generation Z’s values and belief structure. Starting with this is considered inauthentic, so if you want to address this powerful market, getting in touch with causes close to your heart is vital to long-term success.
Business should be there when it matters most
In the somewhat surprising finding of the Hawass study, 77% of consumers expect brands to show support to people in times of crisis.
What exactly does that mean?
This applies to companies that are financially boosting, posting relevant updates to an existing product or service, or simply posting on social media to raise awareness of a serious crisis event. Any of these actions can shed a positive light on your brand and help the people who need it most.
And while expectations for these types of responses are high, the number of consumers who follow those expectations is almost equal. According to a 2020 study, 64% of respondents will buy from companies that engage in meaningful purposes compared to those that operate solely for profit.
These numbers give a fairly clear picture of what is now expected of the company.
No brand has illustrated this commitment to the goal from Google, a company currently ranked as the most significant brand in the world. To help in times of crisis, they have even established their own portfolio of responses and humanitarian aid, which has helped countless communities prepare for, respond to and recover from the crisis.
And yes, although Google occupies a rare economic position in the business community, it is true that every little bit counts, and there are many other companies with healthy balance sheets that do not take action.
This is not lost on consumers, where connecting with values such as empathy, understanding and caring for loved ones goes a long way towards building trust and greater goodwill between your brand and your followers.
It is not impossible
After all, creating a meaningful brand is not a walk in the park. It requires commitment and a deep understanding of how your business can impact change in society.
This is no small task. But for brands to flourish as consumers rejoin the world after years of isolation, it is essential to invest in meaningful experiences that resonate with consumers, stakeholders and the wider society.
Let’s not forget that the people in question here are also your colleagues and employees, and the desire to be a part of something significant is very motivating and encourages loyalty.
Expectations have risen, and the ideals that once sustained our business are changing. Profit and direct functionality, while still important to the existence of any business, must work in tandem with consistent contributions to a more connected and self-aware world.
One where happiness, health and sustainability are at the forefront of modern consumerism. By taking a stand that you are always committed to, you will benefit both the world and your business.