- Three-quarters (75%) of brands could disappear and consumers wouldn't care or would easily find a replacement, per Havas Media Group's 2021 Meaningful Brands report. This is the 12th consecutive year where the value of brands has declined, according to the biannual report.
- While 73% of surveyed consumers say brands must act now for the good of society and the planet, 71% don't believe brands will deliver on their promises, causing accusations of what the report calls "CSR washing" — a failure of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that could further endanger brands.
- The Meaningful Brands report is more evidence that consumers have high expectations for but little trust in brands. The percentage of people who prefer to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit increased 10 points from 2019 to 64%, while more than half (53%) will pay more for brands that take stands.
Havas Media Group's latest Meaningful Brands report demonstrates the precarious spot that brands find themselves in with regards to making meaningful social change while working toward a more sustainable future. Consumers around the world are in search of authentic action, per the report, but continue to trust brands less to deliver on their promises — and are quick to move on when disappointed.
These high expectations are further reflected by the report's findings that 64% of consumers prefer to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit — a 10-point lift from 2019 — and 53% will pay more for brands that take stands on issues such as public health, the economy and politics. A March study by market research firm Piplsay found that more than half (58%) of consumers say brand activism has impacted purchasing behavior or brand impression.
As in the last Meaningful Brands report, most brands could disappear without consumers caring — showing what is at stake for brands with regards to CSR promises and deliverables. Less than half (47%) of brands are seen as trustworthy, and only 34% of consumers think companies are transparent about their commitments. Consumers have entered an "age of cynicism," per Mark Sinnock, Havas Creative Group's global chief strategy officer.
"Historically, companies have been looking after people's functional and personal needs, but brands now face a bigger challenge. The more claims they make to be delivering change at a collective, societal level and the more these promises are left unfulfilled, the wider the gap between what we expect and what we actually get, and the deeper the cynicism," Sinnock said in the report.
Despite the risks for brands that don't meet consumer demands, the report outlines the opportunity for brands — especially as consumers continue to say they will vote with their wallets. About two-thirds (66%) of consumers want more meaningful experiences from brands, and 77% expect brands to support them, with a focus on making more connection, taking better care of the planet and helping monetary savings and growth.
As seen in other studies, Gen Z continues to expect inclusion and the reduction of inequalities across race, sexuality and opportunity, and will show love to brands that take a lead on social issues.