28 Jul Consumer Trends 2022: Purchasing and Ideologies
What does it mean?
Human beings are increasingly looking to align themselves with others who share their beliefs and values. This trend is particularly strong in the political sphere, as you can well imagine, with politically-driven events in the UK, US, China and Ukraine/Russia dominating the news media we are immersed in today. Research by Mintel has shown that this morally-based approach to the decisions we make is gradually spreading into other areas, including consumer markets, in other words the products and services we buy from brands, and the channels we use to buy them (in both online and offline retail spaces). As a result, we are increasingly watching, reading, listening to – and buying from – those who share our ideologies.
We also live in a much more highly-connected world, which means it is so much easier for us to research the politics and philosophies behind brands and corporations online from various sources we trust, as well as to make our opinions heard – particularly if we dislike a message. Boycotts can quickly gain traction, and have damaging effects if not dealt with appropriately. However, our digital connectedness also makes it easier for brands to address their consumer base directly, using social media networks and other virtual communication channels, which means that – like so many things in life – a business problem is also an opportunity from both a commercial goal and a brand purpose perspective.
Consumers are – to a greater degree than ever before – making purchasing decisions based on a company’s ethical stance, which means that it is more important than ever to be clear about where your company stands on key issues that you believe are important to your target audience.
Within the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, research has found that brands are increasingly focusing on ethical, environmental and sustainability issues, as these are becoming prominent in consumer consciousness. Making sure that the planet and the community are at the heart of your brand will help you to gain consumer backing if you do your bit, by acting responsibly to safeguard the environment for future generations to enjoy.
Millennials are a key age group, as they are particularly receptive to brands which support ideological belief systems. To appeal to this group, you will need to adopt an inclusive approach with open communication about your engagement with regards to important moral, ethical and environmental issues. Consumers within this group are more likely to want to support brands which offer added moral value, such as knowing that their purchases will support efforts to save the planet and benefit their community.
What you need to be aware of
Having a strong alignment with certain ideologies can foster strong loyalty among consumers who share these views. However, if you are open about having strong beliefs, don’t forget that you may end up alienating some consumers who do not share the same views, so this is something for which you will need to be prepared. Ask yourself whether this is a sacrifice you are willing to make before taking any bold stances. If your goal is to retain mass appeal, it may be easier to not engage publicly with sensitive issues. On the flipside of this, however, it is increasingly becoming the case that not saying anything is taken as a statement in itself.
The next generation seems to be less divided on social issues, so promoting messages of inclusivity is likely to resonate powerfully and build long-term loyal relationships. Already, 51% of U.K. adults agree that they prefer to be associated with companies and brands which align with their values, and, across the globe, consumers claim that they are often willing to pay a premium for products that are sustainably produced.
You can appeal to consumer ideologies concerning sustainability and ethics by promoting your credentials in relation to core issues such as material sources, treatment of workers, and efforts to boost diversity.
Brands can also act as a voice for change, driving conversation about divisive issues. You can create spaces for consumers to listen and learn, as well as position your brand as tolerant, open-minded and fair. The most important thing to remember when dealing with most ethical issues is to be careful and sensitive, but at the same time, communication is an important way that forward-thinking brands can engage more deeply with their consumers on causes that they care strongly about.
The bottom line?
Make sure that you have a strong understanding of your own brand philosophy and what you stand for, particularly with regards to key moral, ethical and environmental issues. Identify your consumer groups and try to segment them based on personal values and beliefs to understand how they will think, and to what they will respond best.
You may have to make a trade-off between open alignment with certain ideologies and the loss of some customers, with the potential to gain greater support from your existing consumers and to attract new ones who align with your brand and what it stands for.
And whatever you decide to claim as a brand value, view or vow, make sure you act in a way that is congruent with your stated organisational belief system. Congruency lies at the heart of how we determine if a brand is to be trusted or not. And trust is the primary way in which genuine relationships evolve between consumers and brands. We have all heard the term “greenwashing” – but did you know that this is the number one factor affecting consumer trust? Greenwashing as a term does not just relate to sustainable practices. It refers to the ethical betrayal of anything within the strategic brand platform.