The public consider companies evading tax, paying board members far more than other staff, and failing to pay staff a living wage as worse than damaging the environment.
That’s among the findings of the latest Reality Check report from leading media agency Mindshare UK. Reality Check is based on feedback from thousands of UK adults on what matters most in their lives, their thoughts on society, and what they expect from brands in light of the changes going on around them.
The report, published today, emphasises the effect that the cost-of-living crisis has had on public attitudes towards brands. While issues such as protecting the environment remain important to people regardless of age and demographic, businesses’ financial conduct is now the top priority for customers.
When asked what a “good” brand should be doing the most popular answer was creating employment at a fair wage (43%). This was followed by prioritising families during the cost-of-living crisis (41%), and supporting/looking after their staff (41%).
Financial issues also topped the rankings when people were asked what made a brand “bad”. Evading tax (68%), paying board members significantly more than other staff (68%), and not paying employees a fair wage (69%) all topped the list. These issues were narrowly ahead of damaging the environment (67%).
Despite pressure on household income, the way brands do business still can still affect purchasing decisions. 57% of the public said that if the price was the same, they would choose the brand that most closely aligned to their values while 44% said they pay more attention to brand values more than in the past.
Younger people surveyed tended to be more idealistic in terms of the areas they feel brands should be tackling as big priorities, with the promotion of equality in society mentioned by 45% of under 34s, promotion of diversity in the workplace by 40%, and working to improve education by 39%.
Older respondents are now leading the charge on the importance of brands tackling environmental issues, with 42% of over 55s agreeing this should be a big priority for companies vs only 37% of under 34s. This older age group were also more likely to be critical of bad behaviour by brands vs their younger counterparts, citing a wider range of issues that would make them feel negatively.
“I always look for people who are late to the party. You see the few brands that come out and do it up front, and they get the applause. And then there’s the brands that come later or the brands that do like token items.”
“Our latest Reality Check report emphasises the complex challenges that brands are facing at the moment. It’s no surprise that financial issues are front-of mind for many people,” said Julia Ayling, Head of Research and Insights at Mindshare UK.
“But at the same time, the public are increasingly attuned to how brands conduct themselves and savvy to issues such as greenwashing and jumping on the bandwagon of popular causes. And we can see that where consumers do have a little more headspace from financial worries, for example, amongst older audience groups, issues such as sustainability are as important as ever.”
Analysing the 2022 data vs a previous study from 2019, the report also found a more general shift in public values over the last few years, characterised as a change in attitude from “I and me” to “we and us”. Following the turbulence of Brexit, of the pandemic years, and now the cost of living crisis, people are now placing more importance on the time they spend with loved ones, ensuring their families don’t go without, not upsetting or harming others, and being satisfied with what they have in life rather than being materialistic or too hedonistic.