Study: Consumers wouldn't care if 75% of brands disappeared today

Globally there has been a deepening cynicism accompanied by a growing expectation gap in consumer's relationship with brands and businesses. This is mirrored across Asia Pacific as well, said the "Meaningful brands report 2021" by Havas. The report has shown significant long-term trends towards consumers seeking meaningful and sustainable action for the good of society and the planet. However, many have felt let down by enterprises making empty promises. Around  71% of 395,000 global respondents said they have little faith that brands will deliver on promises, and only 34% of consumers think companies are transparent about its commitments and promises.

The report also noted that

Brand meaningfulness has consistently declined.

Since the survey began, and the study measured brand "meaning" in functional, personal and collective terms. The brand trust measured was at an all-time low where 75% of brands could disappear overnight without consumers missing them. While only 47% of brands globally are deemed trustworthy, the number from to 24% of brands in East Asia.  73% of global respondents believe brands must act now for the good of society and the planet and 64% of people have entered their own age of action, preferring to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit.

53% of people say they are willing to pay more for a brand that takes a stand.

The study also found that priorities shifted during the pandemic, with public health, the economy, and politics at the front of consumers’ minds, and the environment close behind. Globally, consumers increasingly expect brands to strengthen this collective pillar, but it comes with significant risk - making promises that companies do not tangibly deliver can lead to a trust deficit and accusations of a new form of ‘CSR washing’. This affects the reputation to a level that it can be hard to recover from.

“This year’s report shows us that consumers have entered an ‘age of cynicism’. They are surrounded by what they perceive as empty or broken promises – at all levels of our society – and we are starting to see the impact of this mistrust on brands," Global chief strategy officer, Havas Creative Group, Mark Sinnock said. 

Sinnock claims that companies have been looking after people’s functional and personal needs in the past, but brands now face a bigger challenge. He noted that when the gap between what is expected and what is actually given is widened, the cynicism becomes deeper, attributing it to companies making more claims deliver change at a collective, societal level and leaving more of these promises unfulfilled. He said, 

With less than half of brands seen as trustworthy, this report should act as a wake-up call.

"It’s no longer enough to show up on one metric. Delivering the biggest difference to the lives of customers at all levels – functionally, personally and collectively – needs to be at the top of every brand’s agenda. Our job is to help our clients understand where they can have the greatest impact and help them show up authentically with the right content, in the right context.”  global chief strategy officer, Havas Media Group, Greg James, said.

The report revealed various opportunities for brands. 

The report also showed that 66% of consumers want more meaningful experiences from brands, with 77% of consumers expecting brands to show support to people in times of crisis. The study also showed that compared to pre-COVID times, "helpful" content is on the rise as consumers figure out how to navigate their personal new normal, with a conflicting static of 48% of all content provided by brands judged to not to be meaningful to consumers.

Cultural intricacies was valued and the "we" vs "me" mentality which influenced expectations across personal and collective benefits in different regions and cultures around the world.

It was also seen that Gen Z is not afraid to seek individuality and expect inclusion. This generation is particularly focused on reducing inequalities across areas including race, sexuality, and opportunity.

Gen Z has more love for brands that take a lead on social issues and embrace diversity.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Adland's Diversity & Inclusion Index recognises Asia's change-makers who are pushing the boundaries and cultivating a culture for tomorrow. Nominate case studies of your D&I initiatives for workforce in Asia today!

The Havas Group Meaningful Brands study has been running for 12 years and surveys almost 400,000 people around the world. The study's methodology examines three key pillars of brand impact; its personal, functional and collective benefits - a meaningful brand is one that performs well on all 3 metrics.

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