UPDATED 24 2023 . INSIGHTS
Credit: Paul Jung
Selling a product or service was once a straightforward affair, mainly hinging on either an attractive price point or strong brand value. You either offered something so compelling that customers couldn't resist, or you built a brand so esteemed that people were willing to pay a premium.
In recent years, the business landscape has become significantly more intricate. Consumers are no longer solely motivated by price or brand loyalty. Today, they are influenced by a myriad of social factors, from climate change and mental health to gender identity, sustainability, and diversity. These issues, once considered peripheral in business dialogues, have taken centre stage. The current societal shifts have created a class of 'conscious consumers,' who demand meaningful engagement from brands on these issues and are not afraid to voice their criticism for companies that fail to comply.
In this age of digital transparency, brands can't simply pay lip service to societal issues. Online tools allow consumers to scrutinise brands more deeply, revealing, for example, corporate political donations. In this environment, ethical search engines like SearchScene and Ecosia are gaining prominence, signifying that a brand's ethics are no longer optional or secondary. The age where brands could operate inconspicuously is definitively over.
Sustainability was once an 'extra' that brands could add to enhance their image, but it has become a non-negotiable. Conscious consumers increasingly demand full transparency in supply chains and are making purchasing decisions based on a brand's environmental footprint. Public sentiment has reached a tipping point, as seen in growing consumer demand for plastic-free options and the rise of B Corp rankings, which require brands to meet rigorous ethical standards. This laser-focused scrutiny means that the era of greenwashing is behind us.
Brands are responding to this sea change in diverse and comprehensive ways, from transparent supply chains to closed-loop systems and material innovation. However, while many of these sustainable shifts have received media coverage, the importance of brands taking ownership of the sustainability conversation cannot be overstated. Doing so not only serves your business model but also amplifies your impact, fostering an ongoing and meaningful dialogue with consumers.
The consumer shift towards holistic health and wellbeing has been monumental. The wellness economy has grown exponentially, and brands that were once considered exotic for focusing on wellbeing have now entered the mainstream. This focus on health and wellbeing has transcended traditional sectors like food, drink, and sports apparel, affecting even the technology industry. Initiatives like AI-driven moderation tools on social media platforms and wellness-focused product lines from direct-to-consumer brands indicate the broad impact of this trend.
The 21st-century consumer landscape is complex, requiring brands to be proactive rather than reactive. Understanding your customer has never been more crucial. Brands must integrate social principles into every layer of their business model, communications, and strategy to succeed in this new paradigm.
In this ever-evolving marketplace, brands have no option but to adapt and integrate these multi-dimensional consumer expectations. The conscious consumer is not just a trend but an enduring shift, and understanding this is fundamental for any brand aiming for long-term success.
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