Care in the community: Brands urged to mend society

people_crowds_shoppers2Brand owners might be working hard on everything from saving the planet to tackling diversity, equity and inclusion but they now face an even stiffer challenge, with three-quarters of consumers claiming firms should also play a greater role in solving societal issues.

That is according to a new pan-European study from leading McCann Worldgroup, which shows brands and businesses looking to futureproof their organisations “should play a greater role in bringing Europe together”.

The survey also suggests hot spots for future innovation and investment, with sustainability, science, technology and energy key drivers for the region’s future success.

However, all is not well for younger people, who reckon a European future is unsustainable and unaffordable, with a third saying: “In the future, it is likely that I will have to leave Europe to have a better life.” This rises to 43% of Gen Z, 42% of Millennials and 48% of minorities, but only 18% of over 55s.

Undertaken in partnership with McCann Worldgroup’s global intelligence unit, Truth Central, the nationally representative study titled ‘Truth About New Europe’, draws on a trended survey of 27,000 Europeans and interviews with a wide range of experts.

This latest iteration of the research was conducted in 2022 and builds on previous insights collected in 2018. In total, the study includes findings across 18 markets including the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, and Italy.

The dataset is wide-reaching and maps the hopes, fears, and expectations of Europe’s populations across areas as diverse as healthcare, technology, culture, and climate. Using comparative data insights from the 2018 study, McCann claims the findings reveal important shifts and track contrasting tensions over the past five years.

It seems many believe brands have a key role to play in appealing to strong human values held across the region: freedom, education, healthcare, equality, and justice.

In fact, nine out of ten (90%) Europeans reckon business leaders should be as accountable to the public as political leaders; never has corporate behaviour been under greater scrutiny or more crucial for business success.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (69%) of Europeans believe it is more important to work for the common good than individual profit, rising to 80% in Ireland, Spain, and the UK.

When it comes to technology, Europeans have a conflicted relationship and are split on how to engage with it. Most positively, some see tech as an enabler of potential – particularly in the UK where the benefits outweigh the risks.

Half of those surveyed feel technology is the key to unlocking our full human potential (but 62% of Europeans think their job is too complicated for a robot to do well), while 65% of Europeans agree that “If we all leave social media tomorrow, the world will become a better place”, rising to 71% in the UK and 74% in France.

Even so, the study reveals that UK has the greatest sense of optimism towards technology, with three-quarters saying that “the potential benefits of technology outweigh any known risks”.

After an extended period of ‘permacrisis,’ the primary concerns of Europeans across the region today have shifted noticeably since 2018.

Some 36% of Europeans say climate change is their biggest worry, up from 20% in 2018, and rising higher than terrorism for the first time.

Meanwhile, the widening gap between rich and poor poses the greatest threat to social cohesion, above inequalities, based on gender, ethnicity, or age – with one in two Europeans also worried about their household food security.

Finally, following the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, concerns about a fresh war have risen – from 24% five years ago, to 33% today. The top five countries that believe there will be another war between European countries are Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Finland and Germany.

But despite a sense of doom, the study also reveals that there is much to be optimistic about, and identifies hot spots for future innovation and investment, with areas emerging in tech, energy, sustainability, and health and wellness.

When presented with a list of future innovations, the number one innovation that Europeans would like access to – and one that could not be more self-centred – is “a pill that stops the ageing process”. Yet in their daily lives, the top area that Europeans wish they could have more guidance is “sustainable living”.

McCann Worldgroup Europe and UK president Fernando Fascioli said: “Despite the impact of seismic events over the past few years on the population across Europe, our research reveals a clear opportunity and expectation among consumers for brands to take greater responsibility in playing a significant role in bringing our region together.

“Based on these insights, brands can and should step up to be a force for meaningful good in the shape and strength of Europe for generations to come, while future-proofing their own brands and businesses.”

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