Five truths brands need for surviving (and thriving) during political transition

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McCann consider ways that marketers can navigate this new political climate. / Conservative Party - Facebook

Our island nation lives in interesting times and it’s impossible to escape political discussions which, these days, pervade every quarter from Parliament to the playground. While some may believe that advertising and politics can – and should - live quite independently of each other, they are in fact inextricably linked; linked by personal interest, linked by zeitgeist and fundamentally linked by what makes people tick.

So it follows that, in identifying some irrefutable truths that inform and influence people, their lives and their relationships to brands, we also uncover truths that have contributed to the polarised divisions we are seeing in today’s politics. But not just here in Britain - in mainland Europe and also the US. According to our research, the number of Brits who believe that the country is in a state of conflict has risen by 25% in recent years (from 44% to 55% since 2015).

As all of these truths are pertinent in shaping modern global society, our understanding of them is paramount not only to comprehend the uncertain times we currently inhabit, but also to truly understand today’s consumer. Earlier this year we held a debate shining a spotlight on each of these issues and asking some of our experts - informed by our on-going ‘Truth About Britain’ research and findings from Truth Central, and alongside political commentators and key clients - to share which they felt would be the most important in achieving future business success.

So what emerged as the five golden truths brand owners need to consider to make it through the second half of 2019?

1. Privacy

Brits are an inherently private nation with 91% seeing privacy as a fundamental human right and 46% describing themselves as non-sharers (well ahead of the global average of 34%). GDPR has really shone a spotlight on this area over the last year and brought online privacy concerns to the forefront of our minds – not just in the business context but, even more importantly, as consumers. Trust in major brands to look after our data is down – which is hardly surprising when you consider the number of data breaches the media have reported on in recent years.

But our data also reveals that consumers’ understanding of the online world is rudimental – 51% of Brits have no idea what cookies are, for example. And people are willing to put privacy concerns aside for convenience, which explains why relatively few people have deleted Facebook despite ongoing security scares, and also why parents are up to 21% more likely than non-parents to consider using AI-enabled technology such as voice automation, chatbots and driverless cars.

2. Gen-Z

Not so much a topic as a whole group of prospective consumers, colleagues and leaders, this up-and-coming generation can give us a glimpse into the future through how they live and what they prioritise. This is the digital native generation who have seamlessly merged the online and offline worlds, and the generation in which 45% of Brits would rather play video games than meet up in person.

That may sound sobering, but it is also testament to the strength of the online gaming community this generation has fostered. Take the current phenomenon of Fortnite, for example, which not only lives within its own online ecosystem but has made its way into mainstream culture, as evidenced by the celebratory dances recreated at last year’s FIFA World Cup.

70% of this generation state that they can’t plan for the future because of uncertainty, and yet there is an opportunity for brands as 82% believe that brands have the power to make the world a better place. This is the generation that will ultimately have the responsibility for fixing all these other issues, and so we should follow what they do next with interest.

3. Diversity

We live in a world that is more diverse than ever. And yet there is an unfortunate – and ironic - lack of understanding around diversity, particularly when translated into the business world. We attach quotas and categories regardless of cultural nuance when, in fact, we need to be doing the exact opposite – the only way to drive true parity is by approaching diversity from an inclusional point of view.

This is also one of the most politically divisive topics. The number of people who believe there are increasing levels of intolerance towards different ways of life has risen dramatically, from 24% to 34% over the last three years – that’s a whopping 42% increase. However, brands could be the panacea here as 71% of UK respondents believe that brands have a responsibility to promote diversity. This rises to 76% among the younger 18-34 age group, indicating that brand expectation will only rise in driving positive change in this area.

4. Sustainability

The crucial issue of the environment is rising in importance on political agendas, having now reached a point of mass acceptance. We have seen a truly world-changing moment, thanks in part to David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series which circumvented the conventional method of driving change from a micro-to-macro level and instead accelerated the issue through a totemic movement to implement grassroots change with lightning speed.

The availability of mainstream options to support a sustainable lifestyle has contributed to this with major brands such as Adidas offering responsible and fashionable versions of mainstream products without compromising on the product. But it is now the responsibility of everyone to make the necessary changes before it’s too late and, as 50% of people in the UK have bought a product solely because the brand took a stand on an issue they care about, the onus is with brands to lead the way.

5. Human vs Machine

We are in an age where technology is advancing at a rapid and constantly increasing rate. “The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again”. And that makes it difficult to predict our future or to imagine what our world will look like in 10 years – let alone 100.

With the advent of AI promising to change the world as we know it, many would argue that this is the most important truth of all as it impacts all the others and could hold the key to our success in the future. If we get this right, then it has the potential to positively impact generations to come, including all the issues they will face.

The underlying truth is that all of these five are interlinked. Our approach to AI could be the key to success in all of these other areas, while Gen Z will be the caretakers for the next level of solutions so our long-term trust is with them.

So to deliver business success that has a positive, lasting legacy through political transition, brands will need a strategy that takes into account all of these issues, listening to our consumer’s needs and concerns to help drive a positive change within society.

Mark Lund, UK CEO at McCann Worldgroup UK.

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