Study: Aussie Brands Lacking Empathy, As Customers Look For “Acts Over Ads”

Study: Aussie Brands Lacking Empathy, As Customers Look For “Acts Over Ads”
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Australian companies are showing a distinct lack of generosity and empathy in their brand values during the COVID-19 pandemic, and people are looking for ‘acts’ over ads, a landmark new study from INNOCEAN has found.

The INNOCEAN 2020 Life in the Times of COVID tracker shows that a third of those surveyed said companies lacked both generosity and empathy in their marketing campaigns during the pandemic. When asked which organisations and industries were in tune with current needs and values of the population only four in 10 people mentioned government, one in three people mentioned retailers and one in three responded that “none” were in tune.

INNOCEAN has identified three key brand values particularly important to Australians in the current environment: empathy, generosity, and transparency, which are considered “much more important” than six months ago.

INNOCEAN head of strategy, Karl Bates said the results were important for marketers to strike the right chord with consumers. “A key part of the survey is to monitor and understand any potential shift in the values people look for in brands – and how well brands are living up to them. In the past six months, Australians value generosity and empathy more than ever before. This is an important finding as it demonstrates people’s need to be both understood and helped by brands during these times. Genuinely listening and meaningful communications are good but actions that deliver something as a result are even better,” he said.

“As much as people appreciate empathy from brands, it’s those that demonstrate generosity who will truly win the hearts and minds of Australians. Especially as we move towards Christmas, the opportunity – if not imperative – for brands lies in acts over ads.”

The research also investigated people’s relationships with specific brands across sectors. When asked which brands were helping Australians successfully navigate through the pandemic, retailers come out on top (more than 50 per cent stating Woolworths and almost 40 per cent stating Coles). Banks, however, are getting little credit for their actions (with only 18 per cent calling out Commonwealth Bank, 13 per cent mentioning Westpac). One in four people say no brands are helping them.

There is widespread support for “bricks and mortar” shopping, with more than half of Aussies (57 per cent) expected to do at least 50 per cent of their Christmas shopping in physical stores.

While fears about the health impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt across the nation, 78 per cent of people surveyed said they were more inspired to shop in-store rather than online this Christmas, as a way of showing their support and feeling connected to their community.

In addition, 90 per cent of people say they will be making an effort in to support local in the build up to Christmas.

“People want to get back in-store as it symbolises a return to normal. It provides inspiration, reconnects people to their communities and enables them to support local businesses in need,” Bates said.

Bates said the survey results overwhelmingly reflected a nation finding a way to get on with life.

“The past six months have been devastating for all Australians, with COVID-19 transforming the way we live and impacting every facet of life. The majority of respondents, at 56 per cent, feel optimistic about Australia’s future, which shows people are doing what they can to make the most of the situation. People are appreciating the ability to connect with family and community; they’re seeing this as a period to stop and breathe – people are cautiously optimistic about the future and itching to hit the road for a break from it all at Christmas,” he said.

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