The survey finds that consumers are today desperately seeking transparency & tangibility but brands are coming up short
- Around 395,000 consumers around the world were surveyed as a part of the report that finds cynicism at an all-time high; less than half of brands are seen as trustworthy (47%) and 75% could disappear and would be easily replaced.
- 71% have little faith that brands will deliver on their promises.
- Despite this cynicism, consumers are desperately seeking brands that will make a meaningful difference – with 73% saying brands must act now for the good of society and the planet.
- The report warns of a ‘CSR washing’ if the expectation gap is not bridged.
In its 12th year, Havas’ study of brand value uncovers deepening cynicism, alongside a growing expectation gap in consumers’ relationships with brands and businesses. It also reveals a significant long-term trend towards consumers desperately seeking authenticity – meaningful and sustainable action for the good of society and the
planet – but feeling sorely let down by empty promises. For the first time, the survey maps its proprietary metrics to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, to help brands deliver transparency and tangibility for the future.
Since the bi-annual global survey began in 2009, brand meaningfulness has consistently declined. The 2021 study, which measures brand ‘meaning’ in functional, personal and collective terms, shows that 75% of brands could
disappear overnight and most people wouldn’t care, or would easily find a replacement.
But the 2021 survey, carried out in mid-2020 during the height of the pandemic, also shows a growing lack of trust in brands -– with 71% of people having little faith that they will deliver on their promises. What's worse, only 34% of consumers think companies are transparent about their commitments and promises.
Brand trust, as measured in the Meaningful Brands study, is at an all-time low. Only
47% of brands are seen as trustworthy with trust metrics around the world in decline -– only 39% of brands are trusted in North America, while only 24% are trusted in East Asia.
promises – at all levels of our society – and we are starting to see the impact of this mistrust on brands. 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.”
Despite the growing cynicism, our expectations of brands are at an all-time high, creating a significant expectation gap. 73% of global respondents believe brands must act now for the good of society and the planet and 64% of
people – an increase of 10 points since 2019 – have entered their own age of action, preferring to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit. More than half (53%) of people will go even further, saying they are willing to pay more for a brand that takes a stand.
Which issues to authentically take a stand on is something the Meaningful Brands ‘collective’ benefits analysis begins to probe. Priorities shifted during the pandemic – with public health, the economy and politics at the front of consumers’ minds, and the environment close behind. Globally, consumers increasingly expect brands to
strengthen this collective pillar, but it comes with a significant risk. Making promises that you don’t tangibly deliver can lead to a trust deficit and accusations of a new form of ‘CSR washing’ – effecting reputation to a level that it can be hard to recover from.