The consumer demand for social change

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Jess Staines's picture
Jess Staines
Digital Communications Executive
Our fabulous Digital Communications Executive Jess is full of hidden talents and skills. From revitalising our marketing materials to analysing our client’s websites, she certainly has hit the ground running.

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The consumer demand for social change

The last few years, particularly in the last twelve months, there has been a shift in consumer attitudes. There is a resolute feeling of ‘enough is enough’. Social, economic and environmental issues have been shied away from by businesses for fear of alienating consumers, but now those same consumers are demanding some kind of acknowledgement or action. Businesses are showing compassion and strength, either supporting causes they’re passionate about or using their voice to say what they believe. In 2018, Unilever announced that their most sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the businesses and delivered 70% of its turnover growth.

A key study that explores changes in consumer attitudes was published towards the end of 2018. The McCann Worldgroup ‘Truth about Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets’ study explores both wider cultural and social factors as well as more localised issues relating to different countries around the world. The extensive study surveyed more than 24,000 people in 29 countries and has a previous study in 2015 for comparison data.

A key finding from the study was the importance of truth. In their 2015 study, 61% of respondents said that it was more important to put truth before other factors in all situations; in 2018 that figure increased to 72%. McCann Worldgroup explains that “in the three years since we conducted the first wave of ‘Truth About Global Brands’, institutions, politicians and the media have all come under scrutiny and are less trusted by people. In contrast, we were pleasantly surprised to see that brands are one of the few entities who still remain highly regarded in a world where everything is being questioned”.

This global study shows that trust is a key factor for consumers, which goes hand in hand with transparency. The issue of transparency has been raised in the fashion industry, food industry and retail to name a few. Disasters such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 caused an uproar among consumers and the effects of this are still being seen today. Consumers have seen too many negative news stories and documentaries confirming their fears, and they’re taking action. Protests, boycotts and social media campaigns seem to not be so uncommon anymore.

The link between being environmental and being political can be seen from Iceland banning products that use palm oil, Tesco paying the tax on tampons on behalf of their customers and the plastic straw ban that is affecting all food and drink outlets in the UK. Simply hiding from the problems and not taking an active stance is no longer acceptable to consumers. In fact, the McCann Worldgroup study 2018 found that 81% of respondents believed that global brands had the power to make the world a better place. In addition to this, 72% said that they were open to brands playing a bigger role in society.

Social attitudes and inclusivity are also conversations dominating consumer opinions. A powerful example of a business that addressed this issue comes from Rihanna’s makeup brand Fenty Beauty. It broke the mould with an extensive shade range of its foundation, designed to suit every skin tone. Addressing issues of ‘whitewashing’ in the beauty industry, the brand’s core messaging and imagery promotes the beauty of all shapes, sizes and colours. The brand has since expanded into fashion and showcased different body types at New York Fashion Week.  

You do not need to be a market leader or startup to implement a strategy that inspires social change. No matter the size or structure of your business, you can show your consumers transparency and gain their trust. From donating bonus profits to a worthy cause, to a socially disruptive social media campaign, there are so many ways for businesses to take a stance on issues that affect them and their consumers.

At MAXX, we work with a broad range of clients over many industries, all of which have different social, political and environmental factors affecting them. We are an engaged team who keep up with the social climate of all the industries we work with. We learn from our clients as they learn from us, which makes for an insightful partnership.

Hot off the press, we are also very proud to announce that we have just been awarded a silver status award in recognition of our contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility through CSRA, https://csr-accreditation.co.uk/. This accreditation aims to encourage businesses to achieve a positive impact on society and helps to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into business operations and strategy.  

If you want to ensure you stay relevant to your consumers or have some boundary-pushing ideas for your next campaign, get in touch to find out how we can help. Send an email to [email protected] to start the conversation.