Trust is Down, Expectations are Up as Brands Take Center Stage in Cultural Divides

New Report by BBMG and GlobeScan Reveals Global Consumer Aspirations, Challenges

10 October 2017 – Trust is down. Expectations are up. And like never before, the world’s consumers are turning to brands to address the social and environmental challenges that affect their aspirations for a better life in divided times.

According to a new global study by BBMG and GlobeScan, Brand Purpose in Divided Times, net trust in global companies to act in the best interest of society is negative (-2). And for the first time since 2009, more consumers say they have punished companies for their behavior (28%) rather than rewarded them (26%), and the number of those who are punishing brands is up by 9 percentage points since 2013.

“While trust in companies has never been lower, expectations for the role of brands in society have never been higher. Consumers are yearning for brands that stand for more than the products they sell. They want brands that meet their own needs while also creating meaningful solutions that have a positive impact on society,” says Raphael Bemporad, founding partner at brand consultancy BBMG. “At a moment of tremendous social and cultural change, consumers are looking to brands for leadership and action.”

“As consumers try to meet their own needs and fulfill their hopes for the world around them, they are feeling less empowered to influence corporate behavior and more challenged in making their aspirations a reality,” added Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan. “Our research reveals how our common human aspirations are being threatened by anxieties and systemic barriers that are affecting consumer priorities and transforming their expectations of and relationships with brands.”

2017 Research Highlights – At a Glance

Global Aspirations: From one part of the globe to another, consumers are feeling the same hopes, fears, desires and burdens. The language and the landscape of our daily lives may vary greatly, but if you ask people what they want from life, four themes arise: health and wellbeing, financial security, meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose.

Trust in Institutions: Net trust* in global companies to act in the best interest of society is negative (-2). The most trusted institutions include science and academic research institutions (54 net trust), our fellow citizens (35), large charitable foundations (25) and NGOs (24). The least trusted institutions are global companies (-2), press and media (-6) and national governments (-6).

* Net trust ratings are calculated by responses citing “A lot of trust” and “Some trust” minus “Not much trust” and “No trust at all”

Seriousness of Global Problems: Consumers say the global problems that are “very serious” include terrorism (67%), corruption (65%), extreme poverty (64%), war and armed conflicts (61%), environment and pollution (59%), human rights abuses (59%), the gap between rich and poor (54%), the spread of human diseases (52%), the state of the global economy (44%), religious fundamentalism (41%) and transnational migration (38%).

Rewarding and Punishing Brands: For the first time since 2009, more consumers say they have punished companies for their behavior (28%) rather than rewarded them (26%), and the number of those who are punishing brands is up by 9% since 2013.

Four Strategies for Brand Leadership: The report also outlines four strategies for brand leadership with case studies and best practices from brands such as Heineken, Plum Organics, IKEA, Danone, KIND, airbnb, Starbucks, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s and REI, among others.

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About BBMG

BBMG is a brand and social innovation consultancy dedicated to creating business growth and positive social impact. Based on experience in brand strategy, retail marketing and advocacy campaigns, we create empowering platforms, programs and experiences that help our clients stand out, build relationships, win loyalty and inspire action.

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The findings detailed in this report are based on face-to-face and telephone surveys with nationally representative samples of about 1,000 adults in each of 21 countries. Some urban-only surveying was conducted in certain developing countries, following generally accepted research standards in each country. The polling was carried out between December 2016 and May 2017. In 2017, global averages are not always based on 21 countries, as some countries were not asked all questions. Selected tracking information is shown where data is available.