Keeping your finger on the pulse during times of rapid change and uncertainty

Earlier this month, our partner Ipsos MORI released a webinar on the future of brand research, “Keeping our finger on the pulse during times of rapid change and uncertainty”. By accelerating pre-existing trends, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we relate to brands. This includes people’s reactions to the inequality they see around them, the concern for living more sustainable lifestyles, and the greater authenticity they expect from brands. According to the sustainability transparency platform Compare Ethics, only 20% of customers trust brands’ sustainability credentials. Brands must show up for the causes they champion and build up trust with concrete actions. 

During times of rapid change and uncertainty, brands must continuously adapt their marketing strategies by paying attention to the changing social norms and expectations of their customer base to keep pace with the changing currents in society. This will enable brands to maintain their relevance by ‘keeping their finger on the pulse’. Brands can achieve this by keeping informed on insights as the changes happen.  

Brewdog are actively making sustainability commitments in their style and language, Real Betis are one of the first carbon neutral football clubs and Formula E and Extreme E, by nature of their business, are promoting innovation in EV (electric vehicles) and also working to decarbonise their operations, this year making carbon neutral commitments including use of biofuels.  PWC disclosed this month in the workshop Climate Change & Sustainability Reporting’ that 50% of their clients had made net zero commitments, they do see much development but there is some way to go.

During the pandemic, digital ethnography (the scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences) has been used to monitor these changes and help with the insight process as part of brand research. Ethnographic video studies offer us a window into how people’s behaviours and personal and social needs shifted during the resulting recession. “What we saw is that people were blindsided by everything that was happening, and the world stopped…we knew what was happening in Wuhan in January , [but] governments and individuals didn’t like the decisions we had to make and their consequences” said Oliver Sweet, the Head of Ethnography at Ipsos MORI’s Ethnography Centre of Excellence. We need to make sure we don’t become blindsided by the pandemic-shaped recession the way we did at the start of the pandemic, he concludes. 

Digital ethnography allows brands to have more empathy and a greater connection with their clients – making their products and services more relevant and meaningful. During the pandemic, we saw how people started relating to each other differently, from bringing groceries to quarantined neighbours to being more active in social justice issues. Rob Scotland, Head of Strategy at McCann London mentioning: “Globally, we are closer now. We’re only three people away from someone that had the virus, that’s had a food shortage, or will be made redundant.”  The slowing down/The Great Reset, as the pandemic has been named, has allowed a greater awareness of our surroundings and also care for people and planet. It is having, and will have, a long term lasting effect on us as consumers, travellers and likely our overall purpose. Bill Gates and HSBC predicting business travel will reduce by 50% next year and maybe for some time to come. 

From our perspective at FGA this means travelling smarter. What does this mean? Some reduction, more virtual and doing it sustainably. Read about our programme supporting how to become smarter travellers here: FGA Travel Smart 


To coincide with this work at FGA we work with our partners and investors on their ESG strategies which includes social and environmental commitments, and we nudge and provide information for companies to begin to accelerate this work in view of meeting the Paris Agreement. You can reach out to us for your carbon neutral commitments, for a presentation on green travel developments and to speak to us about becoming Travel Smart. Contact sarah@flygreenalliance.org for more information.

FGA is on linkedin, follow our work online.

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