It’s an age-old question: do customers really care about whether brands are a force for good in the world, or do they just see us as preachy and insincere? At Fox + Hare, our focus on “positive impact” – from sustainability to social action – puts this conundrum at the heart of everything we do for our clients.
It’s also inspired our latest insight report, “Staying relevant in the 21st century – what people really think about positive impact”, available as a free download from the Fox + Hare website. Its in-depth consumer research offers a stark warning to brands: if you don’t commit to making the world a better place, you’re at imminent risk of being abandoned by your customers.
First off, the numbers show that consumers across the UK really do care about positive impact: in fact, it can be a critical purchase driver. 62 percent of people said that they’re significantly more likely to buy from brands with a focus on positive impact, while 48 percent say they’d actively switch to competitors with stronger social or environmental credentials. Particularly in competitive markets, a commitment to positive impact can make all the difference.
Digging deeper, we also found that consumer expectations are way ahead of brands’ actions. 79 percent of people think companies should take responsibility for the global problems created by their specific industries: for a fashion brand this might mean campaigning on workers’ rights and modern slavery; for fast food it could involve tackling obesity; while for a travel company it would obviously be the climate crisis.
However, only 44 percent of consumers think that businesses are currently delivering meaningful change in those areas. That leaves just over a third of people who believe that brands have an obligation to look beyond their profit margins, but whose expectations aren’t being met. From our other data, we already know that this gap can be a material issue in people’s buying decisions.
Taken together, the findings are clear: millions of British consumers aren’t being listened to when it comes to positive impact, and they’re increasingly willing to desert brands who keep falling short. It’s a final warning for companies across all sectors: people are tired of waiting for you to catch up, and they’re ready and willing to leave you behind.
Crucially, these figures remained consistent across social classes and regions of the UK, underlining that this is a universal problem, relevant to brands of all kinds. The only real divergence is generational, with younger consumers expecting far more from brands on positive impact. These issues, already critical, are only going to become more important with time.
This is all very scary stuff, but there’s also plenty for brands to feel positive about – assuming they’re willing to step up on positive impact.
Most importantly, consumers don’t expect you to save the world single-handedly. They want brands to focus on specific, relevant issues, and engage with them in credible and meaningful ways, rather than chasing bandwagon topics or getting lost in preaching and self-congratulation. That’s a much easier task to achieve.
Customers are also savvy enough to understand that nobody’s perfect. Take those credible and relevant steps, and even if you get the odd thing wrong, your audiences will see that your heart’s in the right place, and continue to trust and support you.
Ultimately, it all boils down to a simple decision for brands of all sizes and sectors: stay trapped in old ways of thinking, and watch your consumers drift away. Or embrace this new paradigm, commit to having a positive impact on the world, and reap the benefits.
To find out more, you can find the full version of our report on our website: www.foxandhare.co
Craig Hares is Founder and CEO of Fox + Hare