In a revitalized but increasingly skeptical marketplace, consumers are demanding that brands prioritize togetherness in what they say and do, or they will take their business elsewhere, according to a new research report from comms giant FleishmanHillard about companies’ role in fostering social cohesion.
The newly released report, The Togetherness Economy, conducted in partnership with Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Robert J. Waldinger and futurologist Martin Raymond, reveals that 61 percent of consumers in both the U.S. and U.K. feel brands play an important role in fostering social cohesion. Seventy percent said they are more likely to buy a product if the brand that produces it promoted togetherness.
Currently, however, brands are not meeting the expectations set by western consumers. Forty-five percent felt that the way brands market themselves actively contributes to social division. Similarly, 58 percent felt that brands play on stereotypes in their communications in order to be humorous or appeal to a certain section of society. The fashion, healthcare and beauty sectors were judged to be the three industries that contribute most to division.
“In this attention economy era, we have become obsessed with getting people to notice us and with evoking a reaction,” said Lauren Winter, global managing director of consumer culture, FleishmanHillard, in a news release. “This has contributed to unsavory developments including culture wars and divisive headlines, and a prioritization of arbitrary outputs that divide over meaningful outcomes that connect. This study from our Culture Unit does not just paint the stark reality that brands and communications practitioners face, though. It also shows them how to adapt to—and thrive in—it.”
FleishmanHillard worked with Waldinger to come up with a framework for togetherness to help brands better foster social cohesion. Calling on his experience as the director of the world’s longest-running study of adult life ever done, he devised six questions for companies to ask themselves to prioritize togetherness. The questions—or Togetherness Traits—are explained in the report.
“It has been both rewarding and intellectually stimulating to work with FleishmanHillard’s Culture Unit on this important and timely report,” Waldinger said. “As we reveal in the report, corporate marketing and communications are incredibly powerful shapers of our expectations about what is normal and how we should interact with one another. I hope that these Togetherness Traits will help companies across the world put that power to good use and help create a more cohesive world—together.”
The report ends with a chapter written by Raymond, the co-founder of the Future Laboratory, one of the world’s most renowned futures consultancies. Raymond argues that demographic data suggests we are on the brink of a new age of cohesion, thanks to future generations’ enthusiastic adoption of what he calls the ‘Five Cs’: collaboration, community, conviviality, co-operation and conscientiousness. The collective embodiment of these five Cs will create more cohesive societies that will be less forgiving toward companies that aren’t reflective of these values themselves. Raymond coins the concept of the ‘Community Company’ as the answer to this change—a company that is willing to embed itself into the fabric of the communities that it expects to prosper.
The report was developed by FleishmanHillard’s Culture Unit, a global team of macro culture strategists that enable brands to be brave and take action while being thoughtful of the cause they are communicating. The report comes in the wake of the Unit’s industry-first partnerships with the inclusive talent agency Zebedee, and the United Nations’ Unstereotype Alliance.
The research for “The Togetherness Economy” was conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence, the agency’s in-house research practice. Research for the report included a survey of 2,000 adults at least 18 years of age across the U.S. and U.K. (1,000 per country). Respondents were made up of nationally representative samples based on gender, age, region and ethnicity. The survey consisted of eight questions that were answered online by respondents between March 30 and April 7.