Simplicity is dead and formulaic solutions to complex consumer demands are no longer useful. In today’s social and political climate, there is a growing mandate for brands to go beyond showcasing their products and services. It is no longer about what a brand produces but rather who it produces it for, and the “how” and “why” behind it. Furthermore, the new norm revolves around how easily a brand’s identity aligns with that of its consumers. A brand’s ability to identify and connect with a consumer on a deeper level—and far past the initial purchase point—can determine the longevity of its success. But what does the consumer identify with in 2018?
For a time, the focus was exclusively on core values like quality and customer service. Oftentimes,
these values were communicated through campaigns
and advertisements created and fed to their consumers. The norm was to stay neutral, apolitical, and removed from all issues that could isolate a portion
of their consumer segment. Historically, anything aside from this was viewed as a risk not worth taking.
Companies were rarely (if ever) expected to weigh in on
hot-button issues. Now, brands need to reckon with how
they show their values. It may be through PR, through
product features or content on social.
Today’s consumers are complex and cannot be singularly categorized. Consumers are unapologetically multifaceted. They expect brands to understand this and won’t put up with being reduced or talked down to. As a result, marketers are faced with a growing and segmented consumer base that is anything but monolithic.
This shift is being driven by the increased buying power of millennials and Generation Z as they come of age. To much of today’s youth, traditional values have shifted, and social involvement has expanded. Recently, a study conducted by Sprout Social found that “two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stances on social and political issues.” Today’s consumers desire to bring their whole selves into their experiences with brands.
Research performed in 2016 by PwC and Deloitte found more data to support this claim. According to the surveys, 81% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products,56% exclude companies not operating sustainably, and49% have turned down jobs with companies that don’t align with their professional ethics. Additionally, 63.8% of those surveyed said the success of a company is also determined by its level of social and ethical responsibility and, according to 73.6% of the total, companies should do a lot more for society and the environment. Consumers today often gravitate towards brands that are receptive to important social issues. As a result, there’s increased pressure placed on brands to be socially conscious.
Brands are evolving to reach a much more complicated and non-monolithic consumer base. A brand that has a point of view, a set of values, and an identity is a brand that can win over this ever-evolving consumer base. People no longer desire to be marketed to in a way that confines them. Rather, they want to be marketed to in a way that connects them through the social movements they care about.