As faith fizzles that our widely disparate political parties will ever be able to find common ground, who can we turn to for unity and stabilization? Could our favorite iconic brands be the ones to step up and save the day? Not only do consumers hope so—they’re expecting it.

Indeed, new WE Communications research reveals a growing expectation—and clear opportunity—for brands to bring greater stability to an increasingly polarized world. The firm’s newly released Brands in Motion 2019 global study finds a whopping 83 percent of global study respondents say they believe brands could play an even greater role in providing stability, while 74 percent say they expect brands to take a stand on important issues.

Three main themes emerged from this year’s study:

Consumer uprising

With greater choice and knowledge at their fingertips, consumers are more empowered than ever to make demands of brands. We see this playing out on a number of fronts, from climate change to data privacy. Today’s consumer uprising is also reflected in the study results: Since its inception, not a single global consumer expectation has decreased.

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

“Today’s brands face a high-stakes environment—insatiable expectations, a push for accountability from all sides, and a consumer audience that has unprecedented levels of customization, knowledge and choice at their fingertips,” said Melissa Waggener Zorkin, WE global CEO and founder, in a news release. “To survive and thrive, brands must adopt a higher level of consciousness about how they operate in the world, demonstrating authenticity, and connecting with their customers in meaningful, respectful ways.”

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

Technology expectations and accountability

This year’s study delved deeper into consumer expectations when it comes to technology. What is clear is that consumer expectations are high and at times nuanced—people want technology to improve their lives, but not at any cost. Regardless of age or gender, people want innovations to simplify or improve their lives, but are hyperaware of the tradeoffs that can come with their productivity boosts. The ethics of technology remains front and center with 97 percent agreeing that companies are responsible for using technology ethically, and 92 percent saying they would stop using a product or service if it was using consumer data unethically.

The tension in our embrace of tech:

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

New this year was a call for collective accountability, with 96 percent acknowledging that it’s not just up to brands and the government. Consumers say they, too, have a role to play in ethical responsibility.

The unifying promise of technology:

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

The new brand loyalty: human to the core

To address consumer demands, brands must rethink the underlying drivers of loyalty and affinity for their brand. That means leading with purpose, building new levels of trust and respect with customers, and creating more meaningful impact in the way a brand operates globally and locally. Some companies, like those that supported the Business Roundtable commitment, are further reinforcing the need to deliver social impact over shareholder value.

“Purpose is why you do what you do,” said Zorkin. “What’s changed now is that it has to go so much deeper than CSR. You can’t just talk about it—your brand has to live it.”

For consumers, that means creating tangible impact. Fifty-four percent say they want the brands they support to balance a great product with powerful purpose and activism, and 53 percent want brands to address environmental problems in both local communities and at a global level.

Other WE research released earlier this year showed similar urgency, pointing to the environment, the need for greater equality and politics as critical challenges facing society where brands have an opportunity to be a part of the solution. By leading with purpose and through thoughtful listening, commitment and bravery, brands have an opportunity to create positive change and a lasting legacy.

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

Download the full report here.

Over the past three years, the Brands in Motion study has surveyed nearly 80,000 consumers and B2B decision-makers to understand the impact of market forces and quantify how perception shifts are impacted by them over time.

Consumers believe brands can help unite a divided world, new Weber study finds

WE partnered with YouGov to field the third iteration of its Brands in Motion study among more than 25,000 consumers and B2B decision-makers across eight global markets: Australia, Mainland China, Germany, India, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States. It looked across eight categories and more than 80 brands, also capturing key demographic data. The industry categories included automotive, computing devices, finance and banking, food and beverage, health and wellness, prescription health, smart home, and tech B2B.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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