Brands are getting behind diversity and climate change, but are those the issues people care most about? According to fresh research from FleishmanHillardFishburn on issues consumers truly care about, data security and privacy are what consumers want brands to talk about, rather than their diversity or sustainability efforts.
As society looks towards brands for more robust leadership and delivery of social values, today’s polarised and politically charged environment is making it increasingly difficult for brands to know what issues to tap into.
The research - which surveyed 1,000 people in the UK - found that although a large proportion of brands focus on diversity and climate change as part of their marketing strategy, such issues aren’t at the forefront of consumers minds, with data security and data privacy topping the list of issues that consumers cite as highly important.
Data security would certainly not have topped the list five years ago, but given the spate of high profile data breaches - from TalkTalk and Tesco to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal - that the issue is now the prevailing issue of concern among consumers might not be a surprise.
Although consumers are putting increasing strain on businesses to act on important issues of the day, research shows there is an innate distrust of business motives.
What issues do consumers care about?
The research found that the only issue consumers in the UK cite as highly important and expect companies would take a stand on is data security and privacy, with a 53% of consumer expectation that consumers will take a stand.
Although sustainability and diversity have taken precedent in socially orientated campaigns, only 39% of consumers felt companies should advertise their views on climate change, while even less felt like diversity (38%) was an important topic to feature in marketing.
Stephanie Bailey, FleishmanHillardFishburn’s managing director, explained: “[Data security and privacy] are the issues that concern people the most, where they feel there is a vacuum,” adding “big companies need to take responsibility, and someone needs to come up and say that this is a big issue to our consumers.”
It makes sense why data security is one of the biggest concerns for consumers, given what has happened in the tech industry as of late, with giants Facebook, and more recently Google+, getting reprimanded for failing to protect user privacy.
Failures to confront and truly deal with the issue has left consumers concerned and unsure.
Whereas, there has been progressive movement in other issues listed further down the list such as diversity and climate change.
Bailey highlighted the recent gender pay gap legislation and the UN sustainable development goals as a reason why consumers are perhaps becoming less concerned as “there is a lot more conversation, maybe they feel reassured that something has been done.”
Another reason for data privacy becoming such a consumer concern is the changing demographic of those who expect brands to be active in social change.
“Babyboomers are far more aware of relinquishing their data, whereas the other generations don't have anything to compare it with,” said Bailey. “They’ve always has social media, and it’s always been a part of their adult life. For them, giving away their privacy, giving away their information feels quite comfortable.”
Are brands missing a trick?
When asked if brands may be missing a trick by choosing not to focus on data security in their marketing strategies, Bailey said: “100%. It is unchartered, though, and it’s a very difficult message to suddenly start talking about."
She suggested that part of the problem is that brands are scared it may seem mea culpa to their consumers.
Bailey noted: “Consumers are really savvy, they see what’s going on. They know that they’re being deluged by information and they are a lot more aware than they've ever been,” before adding “I think they can spot sincerity and they can spot when that is aligned to something a company should be talking about.”
This matter of brand sincerity is crucial to an effective campaign, as to overcome consumer scepticism, brands should focus on issues that it would sincerely be interested in.
“There is an issue with brands jumping on the bandwagon choosing issues that aren’t aligned with who they are as a business. Your savvy consumer can see right through that, and it will destroy your brand equity,” Bailey commented.
Although Nike's Colin Kaepernick campaign was a risk that paid off, Bailey said: “This didn’t come out the blue for Nike. It has done so much in this area, and this was just building on its conversations.”
On the other hand, consumers saw right through Pepsi’s attempts to use activism as a leg up, because it wasn’t consistent with their previous campaigns.
The Drum's Social Purpose Awards celebrate the best organisations, whether brand or agencies, who are champions of change, and driving a more diverse, purposeful and socially responsible representation of marketing today. For more information on the awards visit the website.