Will purpose-driven initiatives make a return in 2024? For consumer brands, it appears so. Everywhere we look, everyone is talking about the consumer-brand trust gap. As we move into an election year, conversations will swirl around social impact issues, and consumers won’t turn their back on these issues in 2024. 2023 was a disruptive year for consumer spending, but consumers didn’t back down from shopping despite higher prices; they did, however, become more selective. And while we had nary a discussion around social impact issues that didn’t mean it wasn’t top of mind for consumers. 2023 set new consumer spending records. As inflation levels out, consumer product companies will return to needing an edge to stand out, and research shows consumers will look for trust-building signals like purpose initiatives as a priority. Here are consumer brand trust trends for 2024.
Consumers Will Expect Authentic Sustainability
Over half of Americans consider caring for the environment as a big part of their identity. Savvy consumers are looking at the entire supply chain as best they can, and consumer brands have seen one too many brand crises to hide behind suppliers’ processes; consumers are experts at spotting greenwashing now, and it’s rarely worth the risk. Consumer brands will also need to be conscious of how their product is consumed and used and whether the consumer will see their use of the product as an anathema to their sustainability beliefs. 4 in 10 Americans considered living sustainability to be a top personal priority, but two-thirds have concerns about climate. This means there is much room for growth for companies that invest in sustainable systems, processes, and products today.
Purpose-Driven Prediction: Consumer brands that can tell authentic stories and supply authentic activations around sustainability will see reduced customer acquisition costs as consumers buy more from trusted brands.
Consumers are Still Aiming for Mental AND Physical Well-Being
Since the pandemic, consumers have taken control of their own mental health. We see this in the healthtech sector. However, consumers, especially GenZ, are more interested in the mind-body connection. They aren’t separating the two or looking at them as different goals. But it isn’t just GenZ – as GenX enters middle age, they’re learning from their children and abandoning the idea that dysfunction is just part of life. Wellbeing – from CPG, to skincare, to apps are all going to need to integrate into the bigger picture for consumers. What’s more – consumers don’t see these shifts as purpose-driven as much as they see them as lifestyle must-haves.
Wellness Prediction: Consumer brands that support the mind-body journey will garner larger support from consumers.
Consumers Seek Authenticity and Trust
Consumers are looking at every signal for trust, from social media to PR brand trust will be paramount. Consumers have given up on the idea of perfection, in fact, on social media at least, they’re actively rejecting it. Consumers want to see more real people telling real experiences. From affiliate marketing to brand activations, alignments and partnerships, consumers want to know that that there is a real connection – they don’t want to feel that brands purchased product reviews; consumers are spotting that from a million miles away. Here’s the good news: consumers know genuine relationships don’t scale – they won’t expect 5 million positive reviews, they just want to see three that support the brand’s claims.
Trust Prediction: Trust will come through quality over quantity. Look for bigger impact, but less scalable trust signals in PR and social media.
Internal Programs Will Increase Consumer Trust
Companies used to view internal programs as useful for HR goals like retention and loyalty. But in 2024, this will start to shift. Consumer brands will see their employees are their most impactful advocates or foes and embrace internal employee advocacy programs. But like other purpose-driven initiatives, they will need to be authentic and culturally consistent with the brand. But employers who embrace employee advocacy, especially those whose products appeal to GenZ. GenZ is highly suspicious of their employers, yet they want to trust them – and when they see other employers gaining the trust of their employees, GenZ puts a lot of weight into that trust.
Prediction: Employees are one of the most reliable trust signals for younger consumers.
Consumers Aren’t Taking Risks
Throughout 2023, much of the consumer spending was driven by trusted favorites – consumers flocked to Taylor Swift, Apple, and other brands they trusted. That’s not to say consumers didn’t try new things at all – but when they did, they looked heavily into trust signals from friends, social media, and online media. Even with inflation leveling out in 2023, consumers will stick with tried or true brands. They’ll look critically at suspect reviews and social media comments and will evaluate brands accordingly. In order to gain trust from consumers, ambitious consumer brands will need to engage in all sides of trust, from social media to SEO to PR and maintain that relevance throughout the lifecycle of the consumer.
By implementing these strategies, consumer brands can work towards fostering trust, loyalty, and positive perceptions among their target audience in 2024. Keep in mind that consistency in delivering on brand promises is crucial for long-term trust-building.