Despite the well-expressed expectations of today’s consumers, brands and businesses are understandably hesitant to take sides on hot-button societal issues, but new research from comms giant Ruder Finn brings these leaders and companies some much-sought elucidation—the firm’s latest survey finds they don’t necessarily need to explicitly define a position on a polarizing issue, but can still engender positivity simply by demonstrating that they’re listening.
The firm’s new report, Collaboration & Consensus: Do Consumers Feel Heard?, questions whether consumers feel listened to by brands, and how much consumers actually want to hear from brands on public issues—and shows how active listening can help companies better engage consumers in a fragmented world.
Key findings included:
Consumers want to be heard
Most consumers (57 percent) actively engage with brands either through online commenting or direct outreach.
People want brands to show that they’re listening
Nearly all (93 percent) consumers believe that brands should react to public opinion.
But listening doesn’t mean agreeing
Almost half (43 percent) of consumers say they would feel that a brand listens to them—even if the brand took an opposing stance on a public issue—as long as the company demonstrated that it heard their point of view.
Engagement breeds positivity
Consumers are four times more likely to express positive feedback than negative and seven times more likely to feel more positive about a brand after engaging with them.
People feel brands listen, but can still do more
Consumers are three times more likely to say brands listen to individuals, and six times more likely to say brands listen to groups. But only about 1 in 2 say it’s easy to contact brands, with 38 percent of Gen Z saying it’s easy to contact brands compared to 53 percent of Millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers.
“The results of our latest survey indicate the importance of an empathetic leadership style that demonstrates listening when engaging today’s consumer,” said Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn, in a news release. “This research also found that leaders and companies need not take sides on polarizing public issues, but suggests they should allow discourse between all voices, honoring both negative and positive views. It’s more important to show that you’re listening than it is to speak out. This has significant implications for today’s leadership style and determining how leaders engage with groups with different opinions.”
The survey’s sample consisted of 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 16 and above, who were surveyed between December 19, 2022, and December 20, 2022. This survey was conducted and analyzed in collaboration with Full Spectrum Insights with the sample procured using the Pollfish survey delivery platform.