In today’s multi-dimensional society, we’re seeing traditional demographics being dismantled as intersectionality is embraced - leaving brands, businesses and people uncertain on how to bridge new culture gaps arising as a result of society’s diversification of identities and beliefs.
PR firm FleishmanHillard’s latest report, Authentic Insights: The Culture Gap, explores this layered landscape and the new generation emerging from it, Generation Divided (Gen D). We looked beyond the traditional labels previously used by businesses and brands to understand what impact today’s culture gaps have on Gen D. Moving away from standard demographic splits based on age and gender, we instead looked at identifying communities through commonalities across a range of factors, such as the inclusion of socioeconomic indicators, gender identity, religious beliefs and political leanings, to ensure more diverse aspects of humanity were reflected within our research.
Decisions are more complex
What we found was our increasingly multi-dimensional culture was resulting in a far more complex decision-making process in consumer purchasing journeys. Typically, in the past, we’ve been very linear in our decision-making, buying products based on basic categories such as whether it was for our gender, in-season or within our budget.
Instead, consumers today encounter a far more complex decision-making process when it comes to purchasing goods and services. They face (sometimes) stressful, paradoxical purchasing decisions as they grapple with their impulse desires and what they believe they need to do.
To bridge this culture gap, businesses should pivot away from purely talking about product benefits and instead look at how they can enable communities, not just demographics, to reach this emerging audience. This impacts how we approach channel mapping and campaigning, as well as opens up possibilities for new ways to reach audiences and create points of sale. As consumers embrace the complexity of purchasing, we will see this continue to evolve as people cement their beliefs and stick to routines that benefit more than just themselves.
We are at a cultural crossroads, with brands paralyzed on issues and unable to move from brand storytelling to the era of people power.
Amongst this state of confusion around purchasing journeys, consumers are clearly conflicted about their preferences and therefore their expectations on how businesses should operate. There isn’t one clear answer, with our research showing that consumers who think brands should be ‘bold and brave’ versus ‘sensible and conservative’ was almost split equally (58% versus 56%). The percentage is greater than 100% because some respondents chose both, illustrating their own dividedness on the issue so it’s no wonder brands feel paralyzed to act on cultural issues.
Brands must pay attention to the culture gaps impacting audiences and get to the core of the issue in an authentic and empathetic manner, then identify solutions that promote social cohesion, rather than division, and connect with customers in a more personable (and therefore impactful) way. The themes found in the Authentic Insights report are macro behavioural trends playing out across sectors and overlapping, as they revolve around cultural issues, not industry-specific issues. What’s relevant in one section around gender identity may still evolve and play out in another industry’s expectations on product labelling for instance. We expect these topics to remain prevalent in the year to come and beyond, meaning brands must get comfortable with these cultural topics that split consumers into a state of confusion. Interrogating the cultural context on issues will be key to brands wanting to activate or communicate on sensitive issues in the right time and place, whether they are being bold and brave, or sensible and conservative.
Be authentic and moral
The findings of the report show that the generation of today analyses the world through a lens of authenticity and moral judgement. This means moving away from neutrality and outdated ethics, heritage even, and into a state of ethical alertness and proactivity. From consumer purchasing decisions to brand expectations, to thrive in the coming years brands and businesses must evolve and adapt alongside culture to reflect the communities they serve.
The research was conducted by FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence, FleishmanHillard's in-house research practice, together with an accredited third-party vendor, which surveyed 5,000 adults - 18 years old and above - across the US, UK, China, Germany and Brazil (1,000 per country).
The research survey was designed to move away from standard demographic splits based on age and gender and instead looked at communities through commonalities on a range of factors, including socioeconomic indicators, gender identity, religious beliefs and political leanings to ensure all conditions of humanity are reflected within the research. It consisted of two separate 25-question surveys, which were answered online by respondents 15 to 20 September 2022.
Written by Candace (Candy) Peterson, global managing director, brand marketing at FleishmanHillard
If you want to hear more about modern PR planning in the context of a a multi-dimensional society, then come along to our The intersection of Data, Insight and PR Planning webinar next week.
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