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Cash-strapped Gen Z wants brands to recognise social issues

Gen Z expect brands to demonstrate purpose beyond profit, even in the face of economic instability, as they report the highest concern (90%) of all generations about social issues, which has a clear impact on their purchase decisions.

That’s according to Dentsu’s 2024 Read the Room: Pursuing Happiness report, which finds that 75% of Gen Z are more likely to buy from brands that give a portion of their sales to charity and 70% say they prioritise brands that demonstrate emotional intelligence in their advertising – both findings are the highest of all generational cohorts.

The research also finds that Gen-Z donates the highest proportion of their salary (5%) to charity compared to other generations. That’s despite more than half (57%) of Gen Z reporting that they are extremely anxious about their finances in the immediate future. An additional 78% agreed they would be more likely to purchase from a brand that makes its products sustainably.

The research delves into the influences behind buying decisions across a wide range of generations and industries – from Boomers to Millennials to Gen Z – to give brands insights in consumer mindsets in 2024 and beyond.

It finds that Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, view charitable donations and social activism as a core pillar of their personalities, with brand identity linked to personal value systems. Gen Z want to buy from brands that are actively doing good for society, not just through words, but through authentic action.

Even among Boomers, more than a quarter now prefer to buy from a brand exhibiting a strong sense of purpose. Consumers will ultimately move away from brands that fail to back up sustainability and social initiatives with evidence. Brands must gain deep knowledge of their customers’ value systems, and then communicate clearly how they are delivering on those values. In doing so, brands can create new consumer demand, unlocking new value in new spaces.

Angela Tangas, UK&I CEO dentsu, said: “In another economically challenging year, a people-centered   focus must be a priority for brand strategy and business growth. Our insights reaffirm that understanding both consumer and customer behaviours, anticipating their needs and creating new ways to meaningfully and authentically connect is critical. We can clearly see that consumers, especially Gen Z, expect more from brands in terms of environmental sustainability and social impact, at a time when technology is enabling new experiences and cultivating new behaviours. The demand for purpose means authenticity is paramount, which will be key to unlocking wins today and preparing for tomorrow.”

Photo by Zana Latif on Unsplash

Could games be key to helping brands tackle social and environmental issues?

By Glenn Gillis (pictured), CEO, Sea Monster

In 2023, the world saw record high summer temperatures in Europe and the US, deadly floods in locations across the globe, and catastrophic wildfires in Greece, Canada, Turkey, and many other locations. On their own, each of these incidents is a tragedy. Collectively, these indicators serve as a stark warning, highlighting the significant impact the climate crisis is already having on societies across the globe. Taken together, they represent a profound warning about how big an impact the climate crisis already has on societies worldwide.

At the same time, almost all of those societies are grappling with significant social issues. Whether it’s income and wealth inequality, gender, race, and class discrimination, crime, or education disparities. These are all issues that must be addressed for any society to flourish.

Addressing both climate change and the myriad of social issues listed above requires intervention from stakeholders across society, including brands. For many companies, that has meant incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards into their operations. Those integrations don’t always come easily, however. In fact, in a 2022 survey, 44% of UK businesses admitted that they were failing to deliver on their sustainability commitments.

Fortunately, there are strategies that brands of all sizes can adopt when it comes to simplifying ESG integrations and encouraging participation from their employees and customers alike to join their mission. Games, in particular, have an important role to play.

Building on brand purpose

To understand how games can help brands tackle social and environmental issues, it’s critical  to recognise  the importance of brand purpose. Beyond the “what” and “how,” brand purpose can broadly be defined as a company’s “why”. It’s also what customers look for and most easily latch onto when they choose which brands to support.

Increasingly, that means putting their environmental and social commitments  at the heart of their branding. A report released in October last year, for example, found that 70% of consumers want to know what brands are doing to address those kinds of issues, with 46% paying close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when making a purchase.

While the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a ready-made framework that brands can work from, communicating brand purpose based on that is a different proposition. That’s where games and gaming can make a significant difference as a vehicle of communication, a place to build communities and as a means to inspire shifts in behaviour. In this way, games can be leveraged to help brands connect with their customers to drive this higher purpose while also driving their own marketing and brand goals. 

The power of impact games

In order to get those results, brands can’t just expect to build any game. Rather, brands need to adopt impact gaming strategies in order to maximise the power of the medium.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term “impact games,” chances are you’ve encountered one at some point or another. If you or your child have ever used a game to supplement educational activities or have seen a game used as a workplace training tool, you’ve witnessed impact games in action.

These games can mirror the dynamic interactions, structural complexities, and feedback loops that characterise real-world situations and scenarios. In doing so, they can encourage and reward the kinds of outcomes and behaviours that organisations want to see from their customers and employees in a comparatively low-stakes environment. They work because, rather than simply trying to build an association between a specific brand and positive social and environmental impacts, they provide an authentic and relevant way for brands and consumers to exchange and share value around these issues.

An industry adept at driving change

When it comes to environmental and social issues, many brands have built up an extensive understanding of environmental and social issues and how to address them and talk about them through gaming.

A prime example of how games can not only target broad audiences but also produce valuable insights is UNDP’s Mission 1.5. This game served as a climate policy education tool and provided a platform for players to vote on the climate solutions they wanted to see happen. According to UNDP, they received 1.2 million respondents, making Mission 1.5’s “People’s Climate Vote” the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. Using a new and unconventional approach to polling, results span 50 countries, covering 56% of the world’s population, showcasing the potential for how brands can use games as a dynamic tool for education and obtaining audience data and sentiment at scale.

As another example, 2023 saw leading coconut water brand, VitaCoco create an experience on Roblox called ‘Coconut Grove’. Through interactive experiences and games, Vita Coco was able to not only spread awareness about responsible farming practices with the online community they had built in their game but they also actively supported sustainability with a pledge to donate $1 to its charity partners in Brazil for every coconut seedling planted in the Roblox experience, up to $75,000.

Similarly, as part of their commitment to supporting the agroecological movement, Nestle France launched a Farmtopia experience in Minecraft in order to help raise awareness among young people about the world of regenerative agriculture. And other impact games with an environmental and social lens are also making a difference in the fashion and finance spaces, among others.

Big issues require big engagement

There is no doubt that brands have a significant responsibility when it comes to helping find solutions to environmental and social issues. Their ability to do so, however, depends heavily on keeping customers and employees as engaged as possible and promoting their values as a brand with their community.

When it comes to driving engagement and reaching their audiences in an effective way, there are few more powerful tools than impact games. So, by working with the right game development house, brands can drive their ESG and sustainability commitments forward and promote their brand purpose in ways that would previously have felt impossible.

Positive customer service now ‘crucial’ to brand success

British customers are more likely to vote with their wallet when they are unhappy with a brand, with 1 in 2 (51%) said they will only give brands two chances after a bad brand interaction before choosing not to buy from them again.

64% said a good customer call experience would make them brand advocates, making the short call centre interaction even more crucial to brand loyalty, according to new online research from Infobip.

The research polled 2,000 UK Adults aged 18 and above, and aimed to find out the motivations and avenues which British consumers are complaining. The findings revealed the following about customer complaints in the UK:

  • Per my last email: Almost half (45%) of Brits say they prefer using email to lodge complaints; with almost half (48%) saying they preferred to because of convenience.
  • Please leave a message after the tone: Of the 17% who said they preferred call centres, unsurprisingly, Gen Zs (18 to 24-year-olds) came in last at only 10%, and it’s those aged 25-34 and above 65 that came in tops at 20% and 21% respectively. A finding that suggests that while millennials are commonly known to steer clear from making phone calls, younger customers will do so to get their problems fixed.
  • Poor service, product and delivery delays the biggest gripes: 33% say poor service was the main complaint motivator, followed by poor product (27%) and delivery delays (28%).
  • Retailers are repeat offenders: 2 in 5 (44%) said they complained about the retail sector, ahead of food delivery companies (19%) and utilities (16%).

Despite the motivations behind and methods of the complaints, the findings also showed that brands still have the chance to turn an unpleasant experience into a positive one, and even convert customers into brand advocates with a positive customer service experience.

  • Don’t show me the money: 1 in 3 said speaking to an agent who empathises with their problems (33%) help improve the overall complaint experience, more so than receiving monetary compensation (17%) – in a finding that suggests that people do not want money thrown at the problem.
  • There is no time to waste: 4 in 5 say that call centre workers who can address their issues (44%) and quickly answer their queries (40%) make the unpleasant complaint experience better.

James Stokes, Country Manager, UK & Ireland at Infobip said: “Regardless of the preferred method of complaining, brands only have a short timeframe to turn irate customers into brand advocates. Making customers happy is no longer a ‘good to have’. With customers showing willingness to vote with their feet, good customer service is crucial to businesses’ overall bottom-line. With an omnichannel customer service platform solution, we hope to empower call centre workers with the right tools to perform at their best, and ultimately allow customers to reap the benefits on their preferred communications platform.”

Digital engagement ‘key to driving luxury purchases’

The outlook for luxury shopping in 2023 is positive, according to a poll of 500 shoppers that found nearly half (45%) of respondents purchased 3-5 luxury goods in 2022; while just under a quarter (24%) purchased 6-10 items, and 11% purchased luxury goods more than eleven times.

In good news for the 2023 outlook, the same research conducted by Wunderkind reveals that 70% of consumers are confident about their personal economic prospects and 89% expect to maintain or increase their level of online purchases this year.

However, success for luxury brands will be contingent on delivering consistently personalised digital engagement across multiple channels – as the same proportion of respondents (89%) said that, when considering whether to purchase from a new brand, personalisation of messaging and content has a significant influence on their decision-making.

While luxury consumers are often fiercely loyal to their chosen brands, with a tendency toward repeat purchases, Wunderkind’s research showed that 45% are open to broadening their horizons and trying new brands.  Social media channels were considered the most influential for staying engaged with luxury brands, the favoured option of more than half (53%) of respondents, followed by a brand’s app (46%) and email (45%).

Reflecting on their journey to purchase, 50% of consumers stated that they research a product 3-5 times before they buy. For millennials in particular, this journey is often fragmented and ‘omnichannel’ – spanning 3-5 channels or platforms before ultimately closing the purchase.

Cian Agnew, Executive Director of Client Partnerships at Wunderkind, said: “There are valuable lessons in the research for brand marketers in the face of economic uncertainty.  While 70% of luxury consumers are confident about their personal economic outlook for 2023 – indicating a broadly undiminished appetite for shopping – the consideration phase is still relatively elongated, with consumers researching products across multiple brand channels, and in multiple sessions, before ultimately adding to basket.

“These findings support the need for brands to have strategies in place to effectively capture visitors via their owned channels – and to then re-engage and bring them back on-site if they don’t convert on their first visit.  Communicating in a way that’s highly relevant, personal and tailored to the individual is key bringing consumers back – and turning casual browsers into loyal, repeat purchasers.”

Image by justinedgecreative from Pixabay

How can marketeers address ‘loyalty destroying’ home delivery experiences

By Kitty Poole (pictured, above), Chief Marketing Officer at Doddle

Home delivery hit the headlines in the UK last December when a perfect storm of Royal Mail strikes and extreme weather resulted in huge backlogs and many people not getting their parcels in time for Christmas. Doddle found that 62% of shoppers had experienced at least one delivery issue in the month, and 39% of consumers were considering switching retailers to avoid problematic carriers, their reputations damaged by the peak delivery failures.

For marketeers, this has once again highlighted the delivery experience as an important vulnerability in the supply chain with a material brand impact. Putting safeguards in place to ensure consumers avoid the annoying and loyalty-destroying experiences of delivery failure will be crucial at a time when retaining customers is more important than ever, given the challenging economic background and drop in consumer spending.

Since the Covid pandemic consumers have become accustomed to online shopping and increased their expectations of retailers.  A poor delivery experience can be extremely damaging to long-term customer loyalty and generate bad reviews or other negative brand impressions. This is a major challenge for marketeers who are increasingly aware that what were traditionally viewed as operational issues, are now at the heart of any reputational marketing.

For marketeers the Out-of-home (OOH) delivery offer is a win in many ways. It gives shoppers the ability to select convenient local pickup and drop-off points for their online shopping and returns, providing them with choice and greater flexibility.  In addition, the increased security helps address other concerns.

One of the most potent benefits of OOH delivery is that it escapes the familiar unpleasantries of a bad home delivery experience. There can be challenges (queueing at a post office or shop counter for a parcel isn’t always ideal) but in working with customers, we’ve repeatedly seen OOH delivery achieving the highest Net Promoter Score of any delivery type. In addition, the psychological benefit of controlling when to pick up a parcel encourages customers to feel positive about the merchant.

We recently conducted research into European Out-of-Home Delivery Options, surveying retailers across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy to learn which merchants are offering OOH delivery; how they’re making it happen; whether it’s working for them; and what carrier partners need to provide to merchants to make their ecommerce checkouts more effective at converting and retaining customers.

Our survey showed that 77% of European merchants offer OOH delivery and are reaping the benefits, including increased conversion rates, average order value and net promoter score.  50% of our merchant respondents said that they saw an increase in conversion rates since adding the out-of-home delivery options, with 20% saying they saw a significant increase.

OOH deliveries cater to an important demographic of shoppers who cannot guarantee they’ll be at home to accept deliveries, particularly during the working day. Giving them the confidence that they won’t miss their delivery should make them more likely to purchase in the first place and 55% of merchants surveyed saw an increase in average order value since adding out-of-home delivery options to their checkouts. In simple terms, customers who are confident that their delivery will be available at a convenient time and place are liable to spend more.

In addition to enabling the reduction of delivery costs OOH deliveries can also be marketed as the sustainable delivery option.  With fewer deliveries being sent to individual homes, and consumers trip-chaining their errands and parcel pick-ups or drop-offs into local collection points, emissions are reduced as fewer kilometres are driven per parcel. 80% of our survey respondents indicated that they believed it was important to offer consumers a sustainable delivery option – a role OOH delivery should absolutely qualify for and can be promoted to fill.

As the world continues to ‘open up’ and the consumer becomes increasingly busier, implementing integrated OOH delivery options in 2023 will be crucial for retailers to stay ahead of the curve and meet the demands and preferences of the ever-evolving online shopper.  Delivery is often an underrated aspect of customer experience. However, thinking of it as the culmination of the shopping experience requires us to understand the impacts of a negative delivery experience on the retailer’s brand.  In contrast to this, OOH delivery offers huge opportunities for everyone involved in the delivery journey – the customer, carrier and retailer.  For the marketing team it means they are no longer fighting brand damaging issues and can focus on the positives.

4 basic tips for strong brand creation

By Flavio Andrew do Nascimento Santos/PhDc is Lecturer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI)

Creating a brand is a process that can often be painful, and we have the notion that everything good has already been created, and that there is nothing else left for the new brands.

With this feeling of exhaustion, there is a fantastic article written by Jennifer Murtell on the American Marketing Association´s blog, asking the question: Do we really need more brands?[1] In short, there is no clear answer to this question, but facts are facts: over 60% of consumers look for brands they can trust before they look at the price. Therefore, if your brand is your voice, we should build a brand that people can trust.

To do so, here are four simple tips for strong brand creation. And here, a ‘strong brand’ is a brand that people can trust, especially after the pandemic, where trust has a very different meaning. Janet Balis[2], in the 10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic, from The Harvard Business Review calls our attention to an important shift: the old truth is that your brand should stand behind great products. The new truth is that your brand should stand behind great values. Creating great value leads to our number 1 tip: it needs to be clear.

1. Clear

Having a clear message is important to build trust. Consumers are making purpose-driven decisions and your message should be clear and as short as possible because the clear ones are the ones that stay in consumers´ minds.

2. Distinct

Consumers have contact with so many different brands every day and with social media, this amount is only growing. Your voice (or brand) needs to be strong, and have a personality, differentiated from the ones in the market. You can start with the cliché question: what am I doing that no one else is doing? If you have this answer, you should make sure that it looks obvious in your brand to the customers.

3. Relevant

Continuing with this idea that ‘consumers are purposefully making decisions’, your brand needs to speak up about the relevance of the product or service. If the consumer values are now different, it is preferred to connect with brands that (at least show) the relevance of their being.

4. Credible

The last tip is a friendly reminder that if you make a promise, your consumers will remember it. Keep in mind that, after the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are skeptical of the market and the brands, and we, as consumers, curse brands that are not delivering what they promise.

And credibility leads to our EXTRA TIP ✨: be authentic!

Michael Platt is a professor of neuroscience, marketing, and psychology whose research demonstrates how our perception of brands influences our decisions and defends: “we relate to brands in the same way we relate to people”[3]. In these terms, our consumers will know if you are not creating an authentic brand with a credible, relevant, distinct, and clear voice in the middle of all the other brands.

It is important to remember that identity and community are somewhat related to brand creation. Consumers are using one brand over another to show community affiliation and identity connection. This mindset is powerful if your brand creates a sense of community and identification with a purpose that people trust. And, unfortunately, there is no magic to creating a great value brand and a brand that people trust, the only way to do so is by hard-work and consistency in the everyday life of the brand.

Finally, from an educational perspective, there is a role that institutions should play to help companies increase their brand trust, even in societies where we can check that institutions are losing trust over years. Effective communication & transparency are at the center of this relationship among educational institutions, companies & their brands, and consumers.

About The Author

Flavio Andrew do Nascimento Santos/PhDc is Lecturer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI)

Flavio has more than 11 years of professional experience in tourism (3 years in management positions) working on diverse hospitality companies, revenue management, tourism agencies, market research, consulting projects, and as a university MBA professor.

[1] https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/does-the-world-really-need-more-brands/

5 ways your brand is forbidden from celebrating the Platinum Jubilee

With The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations fast approaching, brands all over Britain are racing to get a slice of the royal pie.

But playing into current Royal Family events in your products and marketing is a dangerous game – one which several well-known brands have fallen foul of in the past.

Print marketing experts Solopress break down the five regulations you’ll need to watch out for as a company when referencing Her Majesty’s 70-year reign…

  • Don’t mention the Royals in your marketing

In celebration of the Jubilee occasion, The Queen has approved a temporary relaxation of the usual stringent rules regarding mentioning the Royals on memorabilia. Platinum Jubilee souvenirs are now allowed to use photographs of the Royals provided they meet copyright requirements and comply with official Royal regulations.

However, strict rules remain when discussing the Royals in other scenarios such as marketing materials. Members of the Royal Family should not be shown or made reference to in marketing communications without their prior permission, which you are unlikely to receive except in special cases such as “where the event or place is of outstanding importance or a national event or there is a close Royal association” (gov.uk). Ryanair’s press ad featuring a photograph of Prince Charles with the headline “Prince’s secret revealed!” was taken down by the ASA for not seeking permission to use the photograph of Prince Charles in the campaign – despite the photos being taken at a public event.

The Advertising Standards Authority acknowledges that there may be certain cases where incidental references may be permissible, for example reference to a book about the Royals. Meanwhile, many companies have successfully utilised the Royal Family in their marketing through indirect references, such as this Warburton’s advert upon the birth of Prince George which avoided direct mentions of the Royals.

  • Don’t imply Royal endorsement – directly or indirectly

If you do make mention of the Royal Family, make sure you stray on the side of caution, as associating your brand products or event with Royal approval could lead to action being taken. Irish property developer Hagan Homes were forced to remove adverts featuring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with the tagline “fit for part-time royalty” due to the implication of endorsement and for failing to gain permission to use photographs of the couple.

  • Rules for using Royal Arms and Emblems

The use of Royal Arms and Devices is permitted for souvenirs related to the jubilee event, providing they are in good taste, free from any form of advertisement and carry no implication of Royal Custom or Approval. These items must also be permanent in nature, i.e. made from a “semi-destructible material”, and must be “specially made for the occasion”.

Outside of these circumstances, however, the Royal Arms and Emblems are not to be used “in connection with any trade or business”, as outlined by the Trade Marks Act 1994. The Royal Family’s official guidelines state that this also includes emblems “which are so similar as to be calculated to deceive” – meaning you can’t create emblems which may be confused with the Royal Arms, the Royal Crown and other official devices. This applies regardless of context and includes satirical settings and non-marketing communications used by brands.

The sole exception to this rule is if “the permission of the Member of the Royal Family concerned has been obtained”; however, even if you become a Royal Warrant holder, a strict ruleset exists which prohibits the use of the Royal Warrant imagery on banners and adverts on buses, taxis and trains, regulates where and how often Royal Arms can appear on packaging and products and prevents holders from using the warrant in a way which connotates use by the Royal Family.

  • Make sure your products or advertising won’t misinform

Whilst the selling of souvenir and memorabilia products is not prohibited providing they adhere to the above rules, it’s important to be clear that these products are not official memorabilia. Implying that products are approved by Royals or connected to the Royal Family, even in a comedic context, is strictly prohibited.

It’s also important to remember that advertising for these products must not mislead or be viewed as inaccurate. An advert for a doll of the Duke of Cambridge promising an “authentic likeness of the handsome Prince on his wedding day” was banned by the ASA when it was found that the advert for the doll differed from the product sold, with the ASA commenting that “the face of the doll differed from that advertised in being slimmer and painted in a more vibrant, and less realistic, way.”

  • Using the terms “Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” and “Queen Elizabeth II”

Royal Guidance has been released on using royal-related terms during the event. Although the name “Platinum Jubilee” may be used freely for events, projects and buildings relating to the occasion, approval must be applied for when referencing terms such as “Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee”, “The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” or “Queen Elizabeth II” for all communications, even for small community events. Approval requests should be directed to royalnames@cabinetoffice.gov.uk in England and Northern Ireland, protocolandhonours@gov.scot in Scotland and brandingqueries@gov.wales in Wales.

Well-known British brands have already begun working the Platinum Jubilee into their product lineup in ways which adhere to the restrictions on royal titles, with Heinz recently releasing limited-edition versions of their products labelled “HM Sauce” and “Salad Queen”, cleverly avoiding the list of terms made off-bounds by the Royal Family whilst still managing to celebrate the Jubilee.

Glen Eckett, Head of Marketing at Solopress, said: “It’s an exciting time for businesses around the country as we approach this summer’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations – although strict requirements around commemorating the occasion are still in place, The Queen has temporarily eased some of the usual restrictions, opening up exciting new opportunities for business and community endeavours nationwide.”

Western brands are quitting Russia. Will such measures really weaken Putin’s resolve or just hurt Russian people?

By Matt Hay, CEO and founder of Bulbshare

With the war in Ukraine now well into its second month and news of fresh atrocities filtering through every day, it’s clear that the actions taken by Western governments and brands have done little to deter Russia.

Originally designed to be short and sharp, it now seems that they will have to dig in and play the long game if sanctions are to have any effect. But in the face of growing pain among ordinary Russians and rocketing prices in their home markets, how long will brands be able to hold out?

Staff at the Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI) have been busy since late February. The Yale-affiliated school for CEOs is tracking the number of US brands that have stopped doing business in Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Led by CELI CEO Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the list has now grown to over 600 companies.

The CELI list has helped mobilise public opinion and incentivise brands to vote with their feet. For those that rely on the Russian market for a small sliver of global profits, the reputational risk of sticking around isn’t worth running. Coca Cola, for instance, drew less than two percent of its income from Russia last year. Better now to affirm commitment to the people of Ukraine and pull out. But as Sonnenfeld’s list grows, it’s also become clear that not everyone is so willing to boycott.

This presents brands with a moral quandary. Do they stay put and risk consumer backlash? Do they leave and if so, does their leaving put ordinary Russians at risk? Perhaps, given that the war has shown little sign of abating despite the corporate exodus, brands should be exploring other ways in which they can actively aid Ukraine.

Hold outs 

Brands that are more reliant on the Russian market have been noticeably less strident. “One should not condemn companies that decide to stay in Russia as financiers of Putin’s war,” says Michael Harms, head of Germany’s Eastern Business Association, a lobbyist group. The Economist reports that a few big German supermarkets (notably Metro and Globus) have decided it’s business as usual in the east, reasoning that closing stores there would mean firing staff and abandoning customers who rely on their products.

Companies that provide citizens with food, basic cleaning products or medicines have a knottier decision than say, soft drinks or fast food. Pharmaceutical brands Sanofi and Pfizer for instance, have committed to continuing to provide medications but to scale back on business not related to the supply of medications. They’ve also committed funding to support humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.Procter & Gamble, the American FMCG giant, meanwhile is still selling basic health and hygiene items in Russia, but has signified an urge to scale back by ceasing its advertising there.

Not everyone has the option to leave either. Some brands are contractually stuck in the Russian market. Retailer Marks and Spencer, fast food brand Burger King, and hotels Marriott and Accor are tied in with franchising schemes that they cannot free themselves from. These companies have found a solution in distancing themselves from the Kremlin by outsourcing to Russian third parties. But does this measure resemble any kind of a meaningful boycott?

Penalising Putin

I would argue that it doesn’t. And all this begs the question: who feels the most pain when western brands depart? According to reports, the invasion of Ukraine seems to be rapidly and dramatically re-shaping everyday life in Russia in a way reminiscent of Soviet life. The removal of Western iconography like McDonalds from Russian streets might feel like a dismaying regression. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that consumer prices jumped 2.2% in the first week of the invasion, with food prices spiralling upwards. Some shops are trying to prevent hoarding by restricting staple products. For a despot who seems increasingly shielded from the travails of his subjects, Putin and his gang of cronies are unlikely to care about the declining quality of life in Russia.

Who really feels the pain?

It’s also worth bearing in mind that both sanctions and the conflict are having a deleterious impact on consumers around the globe. Already stretched thin by the supply chain issues of the past two years and rising energy bills, consumers face massive price increases in everything from sunflower oil to wheat and commodities like aluminium, copper, and nickel. All of those are things that go into the goods we consume daily.

Given that inflation was already rising at a concerning rate, brands will have to either innovate around the problem or risk taking a long-term hit to their bottom lines while trying to keep shareholders happy.

Measuring sentiment

As the world reacts in shock to Russian atrocities in Ukraine, the relationship between politics and brands will become increasingly complex and interdependent. For instance, research from within Bulbshare’s extensive community of respondents indicates that customers are more motivated by the actions of nation states than ever. For instance, when we asked our community whether they would boycott Russian businesses and banks, 77% answered ‘yes’. Our insight also shows a clear distinction between the actions of Putin and the Russian people, when asked whether they were worried about how the war would impact Russian citizens, 74% answered in the affirmative.

The role of brands in tumultuous times such as this is a thorny one. Increasingly companies are expected to contribute in a way that ushers in positive political and social change. Leaders in the West must find a way to weaken Putin’s grip, while minimising economic pain for citizens.

Tough new rules on brands and gambling

Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced the introduction of tough new rules for gambling ads in a bid to protect young adults and the vulnerable.

The rules will significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under-18.

The new rules state that gambling and lottery ads must not: “be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.”

This is a step-change from the existing rules that gambling ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to children. A ‘strong’ appeal test prohibits content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how it is viewed by adults.

In practice, this will significantly restrict the imagery and references that gambling ads will be allowed to use and should decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience. For example, ads will not be able to use:

  • Topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18 on social media.
  • All sportspeople well-known to under-18s, including sportspeople with a considerable volume of under-18 followers on social media.
  • References to video game content and gameplay popular with under-18s.
  • Stars from reality shows popular with under-18s, such as Love Island.

The new rules come into effect on 1st October 2022.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of CAP, said: “The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered.

“By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

50% of consumers won’t shop with brands that greenwash

As consumer demand for environmentally friendly and green products grows, retailers could be risking lost long-term loyalty if their sustainability efforts aren’t genuine.

That’s according to research from Retail Technology Show, which surveyed over 2,000 UK shoppers in its latest ‘Retail Revolution’ report, with results showing that almost half (47%) already actively buy more from brands they perceive to be sustainable, rising to 65% of Gen Z demographics.

And demand for ‘green’ retailing among shoppers is growing; six in ten (60%) of those polled said retailers’ commitment to sustainability would become more of an important factor in their buying decisions over the next five years, rising to 67% of 18-25 year olds.  Meanwhile, a further 65% of 18-24 year-olds say they would shop more with brands who are sustainable in the future, and another 63% would be more loyal to those retailers with green values.

However, despite the growing appetite for green retail – with the green pound estimated to reached over £122bn – two thirds (62%) of consumers in another poll by Retail Insight were untrusting of retailers’ and brands’ eco pledges, believing they merely pay lip-service to sustainability initiatives.  This growing concern around ‘greenwashing’ prompted the CMA’s recent crackdown on brands, who will face fines if they don’t deliver on the environmental claims they market against.

And this consumer distrust on the sincerity of retailers’ sustainable commitments doesn’t just risk possible fines and reputational damage, according to Retail Technology Show’s research, it risks future sales and lost loyalty too.  Half (50%) of UK consumers in its poll said they would stop shopping altogether with brands they perceive to be greenwashing, rising to almost two thirds (63%) of Gen Z audiences and 59% of Millennials.

“Put simply, greenwashing just won’t wash with shoppers”, said Matt Bradley, Event Director for the Retail Technology Show.  “Consumers now expect retailers’ sustainability efforts to be deeply and genuinely rooted in the brands’ psyche, rather than it being any short-termist play.  And that means retail businesses need to carefully consider both how they can evolve their businesses operationally to be greener, and also how this is effectively communicated to shoppers in a genuine, transparent and engaging manner.”

Using less packaging was the top way UK consumers felt retailers could make their operations greener (78%), while a further 71% identified the supply chain as a focus for improvements, followed by 69% who said making bricks-and-mortar stores more eco would help retailers improve sustainability.  Almost half (48%) wanted retailers to pay an online delivery ‘green tax’ so the environmental impact of their ecommerce fulfilment operations could be offset, rising to 61% of 18-24 year-olds.

To find out more about the top trends impacting retail in 2022 and beyond, download the full Retail Revolution report for free: https://bit.ly/RTS_Retail_Revolution_Report