Whilst this year we’ve all learned that future-gazing is not without its risks… as we come to the end of 2020, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the seismic shifts that have happened across society in 2020 and what that might mean for communications in 2021.
One big trend for 2021 will be consumers redefining what value-based spending means to them – and this is a big watch-out for brands heading into 2021, especially for those whose defining consumer-facing CSR messages haven’t been a priority in recent years.
What is Value-based Spending?
Value-based spending is a term traditionally used when talking about budgeting. The principle behind it is that you should spend your money on the things you personally value the most in life – be that holidays, your children or the latest tech, and be more stringent with things you have less interest in (…stop browsing Deliveroo). The thinking being, that you then don’t feel you’re wasting your money on things you don’t want and are more appreciative of the value of what you buy. Think of Marie Kondo and her “Does it spark joy?” line of questioning around your household clutter… and you get the idea.
However, in 2021 it won’t be enough for our latest interior purchase to spark joy for us as individuals, we will be increasingly asking ourselves – does it spark joy for communities, the environment and social good? In 2021 value-based spending won’t be about what we personally value in life – but also what the positive value of that purchase is to a greater good.
Good guys vs bad guys
It’s fair to say many consumers before 2020 were increasingly aware of positive habits with their spending – with increased emphasis on shopping local, avoiding single-use plastic, being mindful of where goods were produced and so on. But 2020 has lifted our social consciousness on spending to (dare I say the word) unprecedented heights.
Covid, and its subsequent impact on all areas of our lives, saw brands being either lauded or named and shamed daily in the papers. Leon and AirBnB are examples of the good guys Vs Wetherspoons and Topshop who were heavily criticised for their treatment of employees. The increased focus on Black Lives Matter sees many of us now seeking out BAME run companies to show our support. Whilst lockdown and its restrictions have seen a shift in support for smaller, local businesses, the dramatic move to online shopping and, as holiday plans were kyboshed, millions of us planned home makeovers instead.
Hopping off the fence
Added to this – sitting on the fence in 2020 is increasingly seen by many as picking the ‘wrong side’. Brands who have been silent have been called out as much as the bad guys, whilst others are more open to making stands in terms of their political opinions and social causes. Burger King’s recent campaign to encourage customers to also shop with competitors, ITV’s public support of Diversity following their record number of complaints to OFCOM from their charged performance on Britain’s Got Talent and McDonald’s donating 1 million school meals after the Government was accused of not doing enough are recent examples. Will those brands supporting the consumer perceived ‘wrong’ side also come under increasing pressure? They certainly have across the Atlantic, as the #grabyourwallet campaign to boycott brands that supported Trump shows.
It is also probably no coincidence that it is in 2020 – it’s 18th year, the charity Movember has finally got Julius Pringles to remove his moustache, the first time the brand’s iconic identity has been changed since 1968 (over 50 years).
So, where next?
CSR and cause marketing are not new additions to the marcomms handbook. However, as we head out of 2020 and into 2021, ‘CSR campaign’ can no longer be a line in the budget. Brands will be expected, as a given, to communicate their brand values and contribution to society – be that their local community or on a wider scale. This acceleration in value-based spending means that consumers will increasingly spend more with brands who care about the same issues they do.
And, as a final prediction – in 2021 what will those issues be? It is not unreasonable to predict that as 2020 comes to an end, with the Covid vaccine hopefully helping us see a way out of the pandemic nightmare, Biden’s incoming presidency and hype around the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference COP26 already starting to build, climate change and the human impact on the environment will return to the headline news and brands should be ready for it.