Consumers will expect brands to become trusted, transparent and engaged “pillars of the earth” to replace outdated, untrustworthy institutions in a post-recessionary “new world”, according to the former New Labour pollster and focus group guru Lord Gould.
Gould, now co-chair of consultancy Freud Communications, says brands and their owners will have to make “dramatic changes” to survive in a new world where consumers will look to them for leadership.
Consumers have lost confidence in many of the old public institutions, which means “brands will become increasingly important to people, not as a focus of consumption, but as institutions, part of the architecture of their lives”, Gould told Marketing Week.
He says increasing evidence that supermarkets are now topping people’s lists of most trusted organisations is an example of how consumers will expect to rely on familiar brands to help them through the recession and beyond.
Consumers will believe that personal empowerment is the answer in a world over which they feel they have less control, and in which they will be seeking identity, community and connection: “Brands will need to become communities, helping to provide beacons of identity in a world of uncertainty,” he says.
“Brands will continue their journey moving from image, to reputation and now to institutional responsibility, dominating in a diminished and untrusted post-recession landscape. This means new roles, new responsibilities and a new need for public purpose,” he adds, predicting that market research will shift from “monitoring the known” to “predicting the unknown” and marketers “must be prepared…to constantly test every grounding assumption for every business and brand.”
Gould was speaking to Marketing Week following a keynote speech on the post-recession consumer at a recent event held by the Economist magazine.
He concluded that brands must be “confident” about their new roles in a future that will be “better, more decent, and more liberating than the past”.