Consumption in Wartime: Aligning with the Action-Minded Shopper

Who’s winning over consumers with initiatives and transparency?

Of the many phrases we’ve heard ad nauseum, at least since March of 2020, it’s how we’re living in “unprecedented times.” Now, if you were inclined to sigh or roll your eyes at the sight of that phrase, you’re not the only one suffering from this unprecedented apathy. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that we continue to live in a world that has seen COVID, social/economic inequity, political unrest, climate change, and, as of this year, the war in Ukraine – just to name a few. Unprecedented, indeed… 

The Likeminded Shopper

All of the aforementioned events have affected everyone, worldwide. The subjects themselves, and the thoughts and conversations that accompany them, come with an air of heaviness and deep concern. This, in turn, has changed the way a lot of people go about their lives, especially when it comes to how they consume. Simply put, today’s shoppers want to support companies who share their ideals. In fact, a recent 1,000-person Harris Poll commissioned by Google Cloud, showed that 82% of consumers say they want to buy from brands with values that align with their own.  

So, what are brands doing to attract and appeal to the likeminded shopper? Let’s look at two prime examples: Climate Change and the War in Ukraine. 

The Sustainability Shopper 

Conversations around climate change and global warming have reached a fever pitch, and consumers want to make a difference. Fortune recently reported 52% of surveyed consumers said they want to support sustainable brands, while 66% seek out eco-friendly businesses and 55% say they would pay more to shop from them. Sure, it’s easy enough for an organization to market itself as “sustainable” or “green,” but consumers want more. They want their trust earned with transparency, and marketers have been listening. Such big names as Disney, Johnson & Johnson, and Starbucks have not only implemented great environmental initiatives, but have gone out of their way to show what they’ve done, are doing, and will continue to do. 

The War-minded Shopper 

The war in Ukraine remains in the international eye. Ways to donate and support Ukraine efforts are everywhere. However, war-minded shopper wants to support through their commerce, as Forbes reports for than 40% of Americans think companies are responsible for taking positive steps to support Ukraine during its invasion by Russia. However, as is the case with sustainability initiatives, consumers want proof of where their money is going, as proven by the same Forbes article which showed 43% of them thinking organizations’ actions have been performative and inauthentic thus far. But there are more and more brands’ marketing teams that are doing everything possible to show exactly how consumers’ money is going to support Ukraine, typically through their website. But the ones who really stand out and have captured the shopper’s eye are brands like Nike, Netflix, and H&M, whose marketing teams have not only offered that donation transparency, but the entire enterprises have taken it one step further by ceasing operations in Russia and donating their own money to relief efforts (Nike donated $1 million just weeks after the invasion began).  

Sticky Subjects and How to Handle Them 

It’s a much easier task to align with shoppers when the subject matter has everyone in mass agreement. When it comes to politics or social inequity, especially in the US, things get very tricky very quickly. Organizations who aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement automatically lost consumers who believed in Blue Lives Matter. Companies who donated to Trump completely alienated Biden supporters. It’s a very delicate, at most times unwinnable scenario for brands. So, how do marketers navigate this gauntlet? For most, the safest way out is by not entering at all. The alternative is combing through data to see how big their losses could be, and if it’s worth getting involved. None of it is pretty, but neither is the divisiveness of the world today. But at least there’s some semblance of a roadmap. 

On a lighter note, a message to you marketers out there. I salute you, I commend your efforts to aligning yourself with action-minded shoppers, and I don’t at all envy the task at hand. After all, these truly are unprecedented times…  

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