The Wonder Stuff: ‘Brands must bring joy to the world’

sunset-joy2Brand owners are being urged to provide consumers with an escape route from misery by remaking the world through the lens of re-enchantment, giving them “emotion-inducing experiences that deliver feelings of joy, wonder, and even fear”.

So says “The Age of Re-enchantment” report by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, a global trends study which quizzed over 3,000 adults from the UK, the US and China, with the aim of showing brands how they can help people transcend tough times.

It argues that, whether numbed by pandemic isolation, burned out by grind culture, or shocked by the 21st-century horrors of politics, war, and climate crisis, people are feeling a sense of absence that is hard to neatly define.

More than three-quarters of people now say they “just want to feel something, to feel alive” and a similar proportion (74%) say they feel like they are waiting for something good to happen.

Uncertain times might imply a shift to a more practical attitude, but instead people are yearning for emotion-inducing experiences that deliver feelings of joy and wonder, craving the spectacular, the surreal, and the otherworldly. Even darker thrills are inspiring to some: the fear-inducing, the uncanny, the dystopian.

The report claims that while consumers have always enjoyed being transported, crucially, there is now an appetite for brands to deliver this.

It reveals that almost twice as many people say they are likely to buy from brands that bring them a sense of joy (49%), or those that surprise and delight them (45%), than from brands that just do what they say they will (26%).

However, few brands are tapping into this desire: 70% of people say they can’t remember the last time a brand did anything that excited them, despite the fact that 89% believe having fun is a necessity and keeps them going in tough times.

Wunderman’s hypothesis maps the trends to three overlapping needs: first, a quest for reawakening and sense-making in a chaotic and confusing world; second, a desire to transcend the everyday and feel part of something bigger than ourselves; and finally, an optimistic impulse to actively usher in a kinder, more hopeful future.

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence global director  Marie Stafford said: “It’s time to remake the world through the lens of re-enchantment, where the new brand metrics are jaw drops, heart swells, and goosebumps. Brands can help people transcend tough times and jolt them from long-standing malaise by celebrating the thrilling, the uplifting, the awe-inspiring, and the magical.”

The findings contrast sharply with an IPA study, carried out by Opinium and published last year. It revealed that as the cost of living crisis bites harder by the day, Brits have warned brands they are in no mood to be entertained or amused by marketing campaigns; instead they want companies to focus on fair pricing and value for money.

In response to the question, “What would consumers like brands to do to support them through the cost-of-living crisis? the most popular ways cited are keep prices fair (57%); freeze price on value-range products or services (36%); offer more value for money promotions (33%); reward existing customers’ loyalty (30%); and increase the number of promotions they offer (28%).

At the other end of the scale, however, consumers were least in favour of brands taking the following actions: Entertain and make customers laugh/smile (5%); engage directly with customers to develop new solutions and ideas (8%); offer affordable customer finance (10%).

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