Brand research is the new consumer reality

Two-thirds of consumers around the world say they would switch, avoid, or boycott brands for their stances on controversial issues.

A company’s stance on an issue may not always be broadcast to the general public, but increasingly this is not a defence from consumer-activists as smartphones make at-shelf comparisons as simple as, “Hey, Siri…”

Not only is this behaviour increasing, it (unsurprisingly) increases with youth; 52% of Millennials (Gen Y) research products before they commit, dropping slightly to 45% for Gen X and 41% for Boomers.

Dwarfing all of this – 9/10 Generation Z believe companies are responsible for addressing environmental and social issues.

Young consumer shopping in a supermarket holding an iPhone.
Young consumers shop with their smartphone in hand. They’re not just comparing prices online – they’re deciding if they want to invest their future with you.

This is a massive wakeup call. Sure, young people are more inclined to use their ever-present devices to enable conscious consumerism – this is a trend we’ve known about for years. But they’re having an impact on which brands they are loyal to; so much so that their parents are following suit and changing their behaviours too.

This is empowering for businesses with a great story to tell, but a dire warning for those who do nothing – or, worse, make claims of progress while they continue to have a negative impact. In the new normal, having no story is as bad as having a bad one. At least if you’re unapologetically terrible, some people will stand by you out of spite.

The focus has passed from a conservative approach to celebrating your brand’s impact. If you don’t have a story to celebrate, you’re already playing catch up.

There will be trolls. Keyboard warriors will question, argue and disagree. Accept this and move forward; it’s the only way to make progress, after all. Around these increasingly isolated individuals, a community of supporters will grow; people passionately invested in your brand for your stance on the issues that matter most to them. Foster these relationships, help them create change, and welcome their input into your organisation.

The climate strikes earlier this year paint all of this in stark colours. Parents marched alongside children and grandparents waved placards and middle fingers. The roles expected of different generations are blending, changing and evolving, and the way businesses need to evolve to meet them is steadily moving forward.

Find your story. Get your whole business involved. Then set it in motion, and celebrate it everywhere. Make yourselves famous, and help change the world. Don’t think it’s a useless endeavour just because the boss said, “No.”

Colourful and vibrant street art on Jew Street

More reading

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/answering-societys-call-a-new-leadership-imperative

https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies

https://www.thepacker.com/article/study-gen-z-influences-parents-spending-more-other-generations

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/03/parents-around-the-world-mobilise-behind-youth-climate-strikes

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/312028

https://www.forbes.com/sites/patsydoerr/2019/01/14/four-ways-social-impact-will-affect-businesses-in-2019/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/10/29/coca-cola-named-the-worlds-most-polluting-brand-in-plastic-waste-audit/#5a53498a74e0