Consumers Want Brands To Pave The Way

Supporters who incite their team at the stadium

The Trendspotter 23’ Forum highlighted that even during a recession, consumers are choosing to invest in brands that ushered in social change.

It’s no shock that we’re experiencing a cost of living crisis. With interest rates and prices soaring, Australians are concerned about their future.

The Trendspotter 23’ Forum, which took place in the Art Gallery of New South Wales last Tuesday the 27th of June, delved into consumer trends and explored the opportunities they presented for brands.

The emphasis was on how brands could unlock untapped value in the Australian marketplace through investing in women’s sport.

As part of the Trendspotter ’23 Forum, Toby Boon, director of strategy & client solutions, Nine, unpacked the consumer state of play in 2023.

Boon demonstrated that brands could capture the minds and hearts of consumers and drive meaningful change together, if they “discovered the diamonds” within the bleak consumer landscape.

“Every month, we survey the mood of the nation. For the second month in a row, we’re on a downward turn and what we’re starting to see in next month’s data is that that is going steeper still.

“Cost of living is a real real pressure for an awful lot of Australians.” said Boon.

As in every recession, the crisis has led advertisers to play it safe.

To forgo the big bold ideas focused around brand building, community engagement and social change and instead scramble to move products off the shelf as quickly as possible.

“But we think that that is a short sighted and in the long term, dangerous strategy to take.”

Boon emphasised that despite the rising concern in Australians, as a nation, Australians are still quite happy and that  “there are these bright little sparkly diamonds to be found in the consumer landscape.”

Boon drew on 5 different streams of research that Nine conducted to unpack what Australians really valued from brands.

“One of them is pretty obvious. It’s what we call fundamentals. So for groceries that’s things like which is my closest supermarket, or where can I get my favourite bread or the lowest price for travel.

“But the thing that really stood out for us, the thing that was the most significant was that there was one other thing that was consistent across all of those key categories and that was social change.

“Because often in times of consumer pressure brands and organisations are drawn away from things like social change, they’re drawn to what they think is most important price point or functionality. But the reality is consumers are telling us that even when the budgets are under pressure, they want to see brands and businesses that do good in the world around them. They’re really, really clear on the areas where brands can do good.

“63 per cent of Australians say that they want brands to deliver change on climate, but significantly 80 per cent say that they want to see brands delivering against social equality, things like gender equality, indigenous rights LGBTQIA plus rights.

“There is a lot of conversation out there at the moment about whether or not brands and organisations should be involved in mass movement, whether they should be involved in social change. There’s a lot of people saying, it’s bad for brands to get involved in social change. They shouldn’t be campaigning, but the reality is Australians by a really significant number are very, very comfortable with large organisations that they see as part of society and community having an opinion on the things that matter to them.”

Boon explained that even when we are under financial pressure, we are looking for brands to do the right thing and by doing that brands can find the diamonds.

And supporting female sport could be that 80-Carat diamond brands are looking for if they understand how to approach the subject.

In a following session later in the day, Will Koukouras, national director of sport & entertainment, Publicis Groupe and Marijke Spain, creative director, Leo Burnett gave a great example of how this could be achieved.

In 2021, while men’s football teams in Colombia played to packed stadiums, the women’s teams received a fraction of the fan support. Stadiums were empty and the league rarely got any press coverage.

The women’s football league was on the verge of being cancelled.

So Aguila, the official sponsor of football in Colombia decided to do something about it.

Working together with Leo Burnett Colombia, the beer brand’s approach was disruptive. Aguila took away one of the most sacred parts of football, a team’s logo.

“We took off half the badge of the champion team of the Colombian professional football league, something never done before, to show that the men’s football team is only half the team. An act of telling fans that if they only support their men’s team, they are half the fans they claim to be.

“Men played with one half, and women with the other. Every team in Colombia joined the movement. All teams played with half badges for the first time in history.” stated Leo Burnett Colombia.

Fans were furious.

“Wtf has happened to our badge?” a user tweeted. “What is this half team” commented another.

And for the first time female football became news. Headlines spread like wildfire.

“A real fan loves football not a gender” stated Caracol radio. “Love the game not a gender” said ESPN.

Everyone started talking about it. The statement was loud and clear: “half love is not real love”.

And people started to show up. Attendance skyrocketed by 650 per cent during the league games. And 55.000 fans attended the final match in a historical record. Half fans became full fans.

Spain said that as a brand, you can’t get away with passive sponsorship anymore, you need to be willing to take risks and be disruptive.

“As brand stepping into the sponsorship space I think we have a responsibility to sort of do something different go out on a limb a little bit, that’s how you’re gonna get noticed.

“There’s no room for passive sponsorship anymore, we kind of need to do things that are actually going to make a difference.”

Spain said that violating a sacred part of the team was risky, but it paid off. It was a powerful way of supporting the female team.

And Aguila’s risk created real tangible change: a cultural shift that cannot be forgotten in the collective experience of the nation.

So stand for something.

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