As 2019 hurtles to an end, it’s fair to say that we are collectively exhausted. Between the politics, the protests, the fires, the climate change, the drought, the mental health crisis, the refugee crisis and domestic violence, just to name a few, consumers are not surprisingly uninspired when it comes to spending this festive season.
There does however seem to be a small ray of light on the horizon, in the form of a trend we’ve observed whereby consumers are making far more conscious purchase decisions, preparing to pay a little extra, drive a little further or wait a little longer for the brands, both consumer or retail brands, whose values are aligned with their own and are prepared to ‘pay it forward’ in some way by publicly supporting a worthy cause.
There are so many winners in this trend and only one very obvious loser, and that is the brand who appears to operate completely without conscience. Unfortunately, it is typically the larger brands who seem to lose their way in this regard, burying their values under the weight of competition, shareholder dividends and EBITDA. It is, after all, difficult to connect with a brand that requires a ‘Watch-dog’.
In China, we’ve observed that whilst Corporate Social Responsibility is relatively new, there is a distinct shift towards authentic brand engagement, with consumers wanting to forge a deeper connection with brands and a desire for brand choices to closely align with their own values, preferences and needs.
While there are no dire predictions for Australian consumer spending in the lead-up to Christmas, there does appear to be a shift in where consumers are choosing to spend their money, indicating that Christmas 2019 may be smaller, quieter, more personal and more local than ever before. It goes without saying that it will also need to be monogrammed.
Case and point is #buyfromthebush, the Instagram-driven phenomenon showcasing beautiful things to buy from rural communities facing drought. This kind of virtual gem is brimming with rural goodness and, given the growth in their followers after the recent bushfires, it’s easy to see why the vulnerability, resilience and work ethic of these eRetailers may be the perfect antidote for the despondent consumer.
Maybe it’s time for brands to wipe the dust off their Corporate Social Responsibility plans from the early 2000s and to start being better members of society.
Maybe consumerism has indeed gone full circle and brands with a conscience, the genuinely good brands who actually do good things, even if they are only small things, will triumph in the end.
And maybe we, as the conscious consumer, will put more money where our values are.