Brands’ actions to drive societal progress, inclusion and sustainable behaviours have now become expected, but the rise of a so-called “me-conomy” means consumers are now examining what these actions mean to them personally in the face of more challenging times.
So says the latest Havas global Meaningful Brands report, now in its 15th year, which charts how rising cynicism among consumers – originally identified in 2021 – has shifted to an expanded idea of purpose that is more inward-looking and personal.
In the “me-conomy,” brands have their work cut out; not only do they need to act decisively to drive social change and progress, they are also expected to provide everyday joy, support mental well-being, make life easier, offer affordable indulgences and more.
And brands’ good works, while expected, are no longer to be lauded as heroism. Today, consumers expect brands to help them lead as participants and activists in driving social change.
This year’s report quizzed 91,000 people across ten global markets (the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, China, India, and Mexico), along with 1,300 brands across 42 categories.
Key findings influencing the “me-conomy” highlight new ways people are navigating and experiencing a world rife with change and challenge, including the fact that nearly three-quarters (72%) are tired of brands pretending they want to help society when they just want to make money, while 68% think that the world is going in the wrong direction, at a global level.
It also paints a picture of a crisis-ridden society, with one in three consumers claiming they are personally affected by at least one crisis on an everyday level.
Meanwhile, one in three believes brands should satisfy their individual needs first before taking a wider role in society and 71% say companies and brands should be doing more to improve and support their health and well-being.
This year’s report offers eight key points for brand marketers to succeed and grow in the current climate:
Make mental and physical wellness universal: Health and wellness have become central concerns for all, brands need to create access and support and democratise aspirational lifestyle benefits that have felt out of reach and exclusive. Some 7 out of 10 consumer say they are making a real effort to be physically and mentally healthy but the same number feel companies/brands should be doing more to improve and support them.
Superpower “me”: In the “me-conomy”, brands are increasingly expected to be “super” brands, outperforming in functional, social and environmental change, while also delivering emotional benefits.
Hyper-individualism: The expectations and parameters of inclusion are becoming more hyper-individual by the second. What started with race and gender has expanded to include neurodiversity, class diversity and more. This expansion has extended from visibility in marketing to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. Three-quarters of respondents agree that it is important that we coexist harmoniously with people different from us and feel it is important for them to express their true thoughts and options.
Let the joy shine through: More brands, through product, messaging or activation, are trying to inspire optimism, joy, simple indulgences and escapism in consumers as they grapple with uncertain times. More than ever, there is a focus on what makes us happy.
Make it all super seamless for “me”: As purpose turns more personal, sometimes a worthy cause is simply being great at removing barriers from consumers’ lives. In this hyper-tactical era, sometimes just being functional trumps all brand aspects. Working, understanding needs and being reliable are not just goals – but wins.
Affordability is the new inclusion: Good value and price consistency were ranked as key attributes among 2023 audiences. Oﬀering products and services at accessible levels is becoming a purpose of its own.
Enable people to make purpose personal: The role of a brand when it comes to purpose is increasingly not to be the celebrity or the saviour but the facilitator. When it comes to activism, more people want to lead the change and have brands help them shine. And they are changing their behaviours already to affect social change. Some six out of ten consumers are “being the change they want to see in the world” and a similar number are prepared “to make personal sacrifices to save the planet” and “take a stand on political issues that are important to them”.
Do good without the drama: Transparency continues to be a priority – especially about commitments. Amid this, brands are taking an innovative approach where purpose-driven activities are positioned with honesty, humility and sometimes even humour.
Havas Creative global chief strategy, data and innovation officer Mark Sinnock said: “In many ways the expectations of brands have never been higher. This is what we’ve seen in the rise of the ‘me-conomy.’ While doing good for people and planet is important, in this challenging time, with more people hyper aware of global crises and uncertainty, increasingly a purpose of its own is providing joy, great service, hyper-functionality and elevating day-to-day lives.”
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