The meaning of “value” can be troublesome. For many, it’s the monetary value of a service or a financial asset. Others might associate value with a cultural initiative. Depending on the context, the definition is likely to vary.
The concept becomes even more complex when we look at intangible items such as consumer values.
For decades, market research has used rating matrices, panels, surveys and focus groups to help organizations better understand what do consumers believe in. However, many of those methods became incomplete or obsolete in recent times, as shifts in mindsets happen fast and often. In addition, lockdown and safety measures put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic mean face to face interactions are challenging, if not impossible. What can brands do then to keep track and not lose sight?
If you could rely on a social brand tracking solution that allows you to measure and track the values and conversational drivers shared by consumers through their social media activity, you would get a whole new picture of what they are concerned about. Those concerns, to an extent and with context, can be translated into expectations and demands brands should consider if they wish to remain relevant. We’ve been tracking the major changes and mindset shifts experienced by everyday consumer pre-, during and post lockdown. The last three months in particular significantly impacted the priorities and values perceived as most important. The outcomes of the global pandemic combined with the Black Lives Matter movement and the public discourse on equality mean that the landscape people find themselves in has been drastically changing. How do those events correspond with what consumers believe in, and what they see as their basic needs? We looked into social data for answers.
What your consumers really see as important now
For many consumers, recent events such as being in lockdown and facing a global pandemic or global protests to end racism are something they haven’t experienced before. Naturally, those circumstances and the crisis context force people to re-evaluate and, potentially, re-prioritize.
The topic of climate change dominated both, online and offline conversations in the last couple of years. Greta Thunberg and the social movement she’s inspired, the 2019 Global Week for Future and the tangible impacts of global warming boosted the everpresent debate and heavily impacted consumer behaviour, particularly the younger generations.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and major shifts can be observed across the world. 4 out of the 7 markets analyzed in our brand trackers showed the most significant change. The topic “nature” dropped in rankings, often overtaken by “safety”... In fact, safety as a value has been registering an increase across most of the markets, particularly those heavily impacted by the pandemic like the US, UK, Italy or Spain.
Not surprisingly, “health” remains a strong topic, with all but one country seeing it as a top 3 value. Regardless of the circumstances, “belonging” has maintained a strong position. A confirmation of how being part of a community, following a tribe with shared beliefs and behaviours has become a norm and something brands must take notice of. Communicating to tribes rather than segments is a much stronger approach, relevancy of which can be proved by the results of our social data exploration.
Technology plays a key role and helps consumers feel like they belong. Particularly during the key lockdown months when face to face contact wasn’t possible, many used platforms like Zoom or Skype to connect. As we’ve shown before, innovative organizations and brands used this opportunity to further enable that connection and minimize negative effects of social distancing and isolation for the most vulnerable.
Furthermore, the community fight against the virus had a direct impact on the definition and perceived value of “success” - particularly in China. Consumers in that market stopped seeing success only as a direct consequence of wealth and personal achievements, linking it instead with collective attempts at beating Covid-19.
On an individual level, success is now often associated with smaller, more personal achievements, including a successfully planned and executed birthday party or maintenance of a new fitness regime.
“Safety” gained significance for many, and this value moved up in the ranking in 6 out of the 7 markets analysed. From the #staysafe messaging on the social web relating to the coronavirus outbreak to conversations focusing on police brutality and political protests, the concept of safety has a whole new meaning for many consumers affected.
Lockdown itself but also the increasing debate on equal rights and free love affected a value perhaps taken for granted previously - “freedom”. The topic grew at a higher rate, overtaking “simplicity” in the ranking. Countries where the value gained most in significance include the US where the BLM campaigning have been gaining momentum and Italy, when lockdown restrictions were particularly strict.
Discussions obviously vary from market to market, with consumers being more vocal in some places, the ranking represents a high level overview of what and why consumers value most these days. In addition, the common feeling shared globally was the appreciation for brands who adapted their ads and campaigns to address the issues which impact consumers most. Some social media users, though, got tired of intensive Covid-related campaigns or opportunistic rainbow-hued activations, mainly because they couldn’t match the values discussed here.
Brands activations relating to consumer values: Dos and Don’ts
Most key sectors and brands understood that remaining silent at times of a crisis is not what consumers want. Covid-19 gave organizations a common ground and topic they can positively contribute to, both financially and through mindful communication strategies. The forward thinking and innovative brands aimed to find ways of educating and positively engaging with the audience - through safety, motivational and educational messages that reflected values held dearly by consumers.
Consumers have been very welcoming to the companies supporting local businesses, as well as those who tried to leverage authentic lockdown situations. For example, we can highlight here the brand Honda, with their “Until we drive again” ad, completely shot from home, encouraging consumers to stay home and stay safe.
Among the powerful campaigns regarding the BLM protests, once again, Nike is showing the way to other brands, with this very powerful “Don’t do it” campaign.
In a very unfortunate way, there are also brands who attempt to gain commercially and exploit vulnerable consumers. This has become obvious during the initial months of lockdown in particular. Selling expensive face masks, increasing online advertising enticing consumers to buy more, advertising products considered non-essential or not linked to the values highlighted above, ads ignoring the concept of social distancing or inconsistency in messaging were just a few of the tactics we identified. In most cases, those were picked up by industry commentators or consumers themselves who continue to point out lack of authenticity and dishonesty, for example, with retailers encouraging their audiences to stay home but keeping their shops open with employees having to physically come to work.
You can’t ignore what consumers expect of you
The events we experienced in the last 4 months have all but highlighted the role brands are expected to play when a crisis strikes. As the use of social media continues to increase and as consumers continue to act as gatekeepers and a watchdog, reliability and empathy are key. We’ve seen examples of brands who put values at the heart of their strategies and build their success stories on deeper understanding of those who fuel their business - consumers. And as their mindsets shift more often than even before, forced to react and adjust to the changing environments they live in, there’s much more for brands to learn. The efforts put in today are likely to result with loyal and long lasting relationships, lifetime value and vocal ambassadors who encourage peers to join their tribes.