Fear, and how brands can help

* 2 min read
Fear is all around us. Coronavirus, terrorist attacks, Brexit, global warming, FOMO.

What’s more, the speed at which these feelings of fear are spread across social media means that we are all bombarded with fearful information all the time. According to WGSN this is referred to as “digital emotion contagion”: fear is catching, and will spread even more quickly with the launch of 5G.

What people need from brands is safe havens. Places where their beliefs and principles are reflected back at them and where they feel safe and understood. They want to engage with brands with empathy, where they feel supported.

Over the years there have been a number of statistics gathered that demonstrate the principle that brands need to demonstrate values in order to get consumers to care. It started in 2012 when the Harvard Business Review demonstrated that 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. That was a brand lifetime ago. By 2017 a survey by Cone Communications showed that 87% of consumers say that they base purchasing choices on a company's values. Conversely, 76% would refuse to purchase a company’s products or services if its view did not align with their own beliefs. By 2019, according to Twitter #FUEL data, 57% of consumers were buying or boycotting a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. 30% are buying or boycotting more than they were a year ago; that’s a hell of a jump in 12 months.

With the above in mind it is clear that brands must be transparent in their communications with their consumers (or should that be ‘followers’?). Transparency on packaging for food brands and personal care products in particular is an absolute must, along with a demonstration that you are doing something to help the planet through judicious use of the right sustainable materials in your packaging.

But it’s more than that. Brands must reflect their consumers’ conscience. Brands can help with the fear of global warming by showing that they are helping their consumers to do something for the planet. Health fears can be reduced if people believe that they are being looked out for (not just physically, but mentally as well through reassurance and a feeling of calm). FOMO can be reduced by a brand making sure that consumers are part of something bigger; that they are not alone. This could just be as simple as helping consumers to bring their family together more as Aunt Bessie’s are doing with their “real meals not ready meals” approach to enablement of a family roast dinner.

According to PWC, While 72% of companies mention the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which include responsible consumption and production – in their annual reporting, only 27% include them in business strategy. Maybe that’s why, according to HAVAS’s meaningful brands index, if 73% of brands disappeared no-one would care.

As brands what we need to ensure is that we are part of the 27% of brands for which consumers DO care. Those 27% will be brands that have empathy: that care back. What’s keeping your consumers awake at night? What can you do to minimise their fears? How can you prevent your brand from having FOMO?