<trp-post-container data-trp-post-id='28668'>Brands :comment enter this formidable request empathy ?

At a time when the Coronavirus pandemic is imposing its rules, new questions are assailing consumers. The desire for health is growing, and with it the need for transparency, ethics and solidarity. This new situation will not be without effect on consumption, nor on the relationship with brands. Here's a quick look at expectations in France, based on an online community of 18 people aged between 25 and 55 conducted by Adwise.

By Florence HUSSENOT

A consumer in search of the essentials

The people we interviewed all expressed a desire to "get back to basics". In other words, what's essential is what's left open, the rest is what's superfluous. But behind this rather hasty vision, linked to the specific nature of the situation when the shops are closed, lies the desire to reflect on our consumption, "to sort out what we have too much of and what we lack"..

We need to return to meaningful consumption: "it reveals our over-consumption or even "Clearly refocusing on what's essential, what's important and what's necessary; the trivial takes a back seat and I hope to keep it that way".. In support of this, the people interviewed talk first of all about de-consumption ("I really need to curb my consumption of everything")), or a reallocation of consumption towards more intangible goods: spending time with family, enjoying life, doing sport, looking after ourselves.

Secondly, their reflex is to return to more considered consumption. Planning ahead, anticipating and thinking things through are essential to them ("As soon as things get back to normal, consume better and stop going crazy, especially impulse buying" or "I'm certainly going to slow down my consumption, less on the spur of the moment").).

It raises many questions about working conditions (and their own). Behind the product, the people interviewed are once again aware that there are lives, men and women who were previously drowned in a predominantly logistical scheme ("Do I want to buy a T-shirt that has been manufactured in deplorable human and environmental conditions, shipped to me from the other side of the world and then delivered to me despite the ongoing health risk?).

Even more than before, the social dimension of production is breaking into the decision-making process in the same way as the ecological dimension. The crisis is accelerating CSR. And CSR is tilting in favour of re-localising production: "I'm going to pay more attention to where what I buy comes from. I'm going to pay more attention to where what I buy comes from. To support the economy here and not be so dependent on distant countries". or even "We have to be responsible, consume locally, avoid being entirely dependent on countries on the other side of the world, limit globalisation and encourage local exchanges".. And as such, some of those questioned tend to look for alternative brands : "I clearly prefer small brands and companies to help in these difficult times". and in textiles, the new fashion brands that are emerging: Balzac, Make my Lemonade and Everlane in the USA are all taking these issues into account ("I don't see them much in historic brands - apart from small collections that are very cosmetic and green washing".).

Last but not least, the theme of health and wellbeing is back in the spotlight[iv] : "I'm going to move towards more responsible brands, particularly for cosmetics. With fewer ingredients and additives";

An active consumer who expects brands to be socially involved

The French surveyed expect brands to react. A recent study[v] shows that 55% of consumers believe that brands have more power than governments to create a better future. They write: "they must make commitments, show solidarity and protect their employees".. Consumers want to use their buying power: "I don't think that's cool. I don't think that's cool on their part. Brands that haven't had so much as a word to say about the situation we're in will certainly no longer have my money", "I remain loyal to a brand that has been with me through good times and bad"; "I expect them to be more present in the current situation"..

And two aspects particularly shocked them:

  • Brands that fail to show ethical behaviour towards their employees, by continuing to run their e-shops and offering free delivery, are punished in the minds of consumers: "I don't really appreciate receiving emails from brands saying that their e-shops are still open: at what cost to their employees? are they putting numbers before people"; "we get lots of emails from shops saying 'pamper yourself' and 'free delivery', but is this the right time to put the delivery driver at risk!

  • Those who continue with their sales approach as if nothing had happened, because today's expectation is empathy: "I expect brands to live what we live and not just be banknotes".or even "I already expect brands to communicate what's going on, it seems almost shocking to see brands on Instagram rolling out their communication plan as if nothing had happened, not to mention the covid.and the sincerity of the messages is key: "I received an e-mail from an e-tailer that caught my eye. The subject line was: how can I keep the kids busy and give my parents a break? At first I thought it was about ideas for activities, but it wasn't at all. There was a whole range of outdoor items for sale: trampolines, tents, tree houses, etc. The subject of the email was out of place, they were encouraging people to buy. I didn't like it". or even "A number of brands are sending messages and emails to tell us that they're supporting us during this period of confinement, but in fact they're not at all, as they're simply announcing their spring collection... It's shocking because we're not at all prepared for this... What's likely to annoy me is that I'm being inundated with useless messages urging me to consume". ;

Consumers looking for empathy and collective benefits

In this context, brands need to adapt their messages better, and above all think about the future. Today's crisis raises expectations of brand engagement ("What's going to irritate me tomorrow are positions that aren't sufficiently well thought out and embodied = green washing.), consistency and conscience. For consumers, it's a time for a bit of introspection and to draw up an action plan for greater environmental and ethical impact.

The values that will count tomorrow imply a collective benefit:

  • ecology, organic materials, environmental protection and eco-responsible products, directly associated with the theme of health and respect for the environment.
  • generosity
  • solidarity ("But I'm interested in knowing more about the initiatives that are taken to help the most disadvantaged, for example, during this period.)
  • consciousness ("They can rethink the way they work: the places where they produce, the way collections are put together, etc."; "I've had enough of brands that overproduce to the detriment of workers and that also offer products for a certain type of person, excluding anyone who doesn't fit the mould. I want to consume brands that pay attention to the world they live in".)
  • Transparency: "I think I'm going to be more vigilant about the commitments made by brands, I'm going to expect greater transparency about manufacturing conditions, the materials used, etc. I expect brands to question the way they work and to make real commitments. Improving their human, social and environmental impact".
  • universality : "In my opinion, we are in a total era of globalisation and consumerism. This just goes to show that we all have to move forward together, that we are all human beings and that we have to stop being individualists.
  • responsibility towards the premises

Against this backdrop, the French people surveyed pointed to a number of excellent brand initiatives:

  • in supermarkets, with slots reserved for the elderly, and deliveries of packed lunches to the elderly or dependent. Or catering brands that donate food (e.g. Dominos, which donates pizzas to the Caen emergency team). In a different vein, Foodette (which delivers packed lunches) has also ceased trading, but offers newsletters with great recipes to make at home.
  • a positive message from a number of brands, including H&M, which have donated money to Covid-19 research, ("and who have made delivery free and exchange And refund free for 100 days instead of 30 days I find this positive because they are adapting to the situation").)
  • "I was struck by a message from the Pimkie shop, which has closed all its shops and also the eshop because they considered it futile during this period of confinement. It's one of the only shops I've seen take this decision.
  • "I'm also very pleased to see initiatives from a group like LVMH, which immediately started producing hydroalcoholic gel and now masks".
  • "I also really like the newsletters from Le Pantalon, which keeps us informed about initiatives and has decided to leave its e-shop open but will only resume deliveries after the containment period."

And have some suggestions:

  • "I'd like to read press releases from brands questioning their role in the spread of the virus and announcing measures to be more respectful. Or brands could relay great initiatives by customers or create 'discussion groups' to break the isolation and facilitate exchanges at this time. This could simply take the form of a Facebook group, for example.
  • I'd like to receive tutorials and ideas for keeping children busy. A selection of films or books. Or a super discount in my favourite shop when things get back to normal.
  • Advertisements to give ideas for keeping children occupied, or recipes for cooking, or taking care of yourself with natural products, or making home-made objects or products, getting ideas for looks... just to keep busy and rediscover a taste for simple things.

Our recommendation for today's brands focuses on four aspects:

  1. Communicate with your customers, but communicate with empathy in these stressful times, reminding them of employee protection and commitments to social and environmental responsibility, and providing help to your customers. To do this, you need to know them well and understand them. When use value is limited by the situation, you need to work on its image value.
  2. An appetite for consumption will undoubtedly emerge as soon as confinement ends. But it will be for brands that make sense. Think now about the values and personality of the brand, taking into account expectations of new collective benefits, bringing together solidarity, generosity, a role in the economy and an awareness of the lives of your customers. Consumers want to be seen as people, who play a role through their consumption, and not just as abstract customers.
  3. Work on the offer, its materials or raw materials, its manufacture and its sourcing in such a way as to provide sincere proof of your commitments in complete transparency.[vi].
  4. Health is a growing theme, as is corporate social responsibility. We need to become a reassuring brand.

-Study carried out on an online community led by Adwise with 18 women in Paris, Marseille, Lyon and their suburbs, between 21 and 26 March; community in progress.

-President of the research and consultancy institute ADWISE - 06 12 43 48 04

-As Daniel Cohen points out in a recent article, "industrial production as an assembly of parts scattered all over the world, particularly in China, in the quest for the lowest cost and the best value for money, has reached its limits".

-This should be seen in the context of the latest Havas China study (Corona Market Virus update -update 13 March 2020): 52 % of those surveyed say they have started to focus on health and products that can boost the immune system, 41 % that they now prefer eco-friendly and organic products and 35 % that fresh and safe products are more important than ever to them.

-Meaningfull brands survey 2019 - Havas

-60% of French people believe that too many brands use social issues as a marketing tool - Edelman Trust Barometer

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