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U OK UK? Why brand purpose is more important than ever

Ben Bilboul, CEO of Karmarama & Managing Director at Accenture Interactive introduces a new report to help the marketing sector understand the changes in customer priorities taking place during lockdown.

The world has faced a lot of turmoil of late, presenting unprecedented challenges for people across the globe. These challenges have shifted the role of the marketer too; consumer spend across many areas is dwindling, marketing budgets are declining, whilst they’ve simultaneously been tasked with orchestrating their brand’s response to huge global issues, no mean feat.

To add to the challenge, marketers are well aware of the lasting impact their brand’s response will have, with consumers cognisant of the brands they rated, and those they didn’t, during this time. Sites such as and its leader board of companies’ positive and negative responses to this crisis, will serve as a lasting reminder.

With all that in mind, the pressure is on for marketers to ensure a strong sense of brand purpose that resonates with consumers now and long after COVID-19 subsides, whilst ensuring they steer clear of the COVID clichés that have become commonplace during these times.

So, to help our peers in the marketing sector understand these changes in customer priorities, here at Karmarama we’ve launched our U OK UK? report, analysing conversations from the Twittersphere, as well as conducting research on our panel of Brits living their lives under lockdown. Here are some key takeaways:

  • 7 in 10 people don’t intend on spending a single penny on holidays abroad this year
  • the word ‘neighbour’ is 8 times more likely to appear in a social post
  • 86% of customers agree that looking after staff is the most important thing for brands to prioritise during the pandemic

Empower your customer

According to our lockdown panel, 7 in 10 don’t intend on spending a single penny on holidays abroad this year. Instead, they’re investing their time in wholesome activities such as, surprise, surprise, baking, with ‘bread’ six times as likely to appear in social posts these last few months.

It’s but one example of how creativity and adaptability have come to the forefront as people work around the confines of lockdown life, making the most of what they do have and thinking laterally when it comes to keeping themselves occupied by embracing a ‘DIY’ mindset.

Brands should, therefore, empower their customers to ‘do it themselves’, allowing them to recreate their own experiences at home. A number of brands are doing a great job here, whether it’s McDonald’s, Nando’s and Pret a Manger releasing their top-secret recipes or Brew Dog creating virtual pubs that people can socialise in from home. 

More than ever before, recreating these experiences in their own safe habitat is so important for consumers, so even if it’s not driving immediate revenue, these empowered customers will be sure to feel a stronger brand affinity in the long run. 

Buoy community spirit

According to our report, the newfound sense of community people feel has really heightened during these times, with the word ‘neighbour’ eight times more likely to appear in social posts. Those involved in our panel feel less focussed on their own individual concerns and more on how their actions affect others, finding joy in acts of generosity and kindness, whether that’s signing up to be an NHS volunteer, donating to charities or even adopting a new pet which has, interestingly, also boomed.

Brands, therefore, need to ditch the mindset that consumerism is solely individualistic. Customers aren’t thinking of ‘me, me, me’ anymore, they’re engaging with brands that benefit entire communities and groups instead. The likes of Leon, EE, John Lewis Partnership and Wagamama, amongst hundreds of others, for example, are offering discounts to key workers, donating items to hospitals, and creating product lines whose proceeds go to charities.

Supermarkets have also done a good job of highlighting their value within communities and showing they genuinely care. They’ve been praised for going above and beyond to look after the most vulnerable in society and, of our respondents who named a brand that they thought responded well to COVID-19, over half (59%) mentioned a supermarket. Customers are also keen to see brands display a strong sense of care within their organisations, as well as in their consumer-facing strategies. The vast majority of customers (86%) agree that looking after staff is the most important thing for brands to prioritise during the pandemic.

Whilst lockdown measures continue to slowly ease, people will appreciate their friends and family even more and this heightened feeling of compassion and empathy towards others is a sentiment that’s here to stay. According to our research, two thirds of customers are keen to maintain a greater sense of togetherness in a post-pandemic world, so brands really need to consider how this will affect consumer behaviours and desires going forward.

More than ever, consumers want to invest financially and emotionally in brands that understand the pursuit for a greater meaning in their lives, whether that’s offering a higher purpose or empowering people to recalibrate their own. Consumer needs have shifted dramatically and will continue to evolve from here depending on how things play out. Brands should remain considerate of the guidance and support they can provide during this time, creating meaningful engagement with their existing and prospective customers, both now and long-term.

You can download the latest U OK UK? Reports here

Karmarama is the UK’s most progressive creative agency, part of Accenture Interactive, working across advertising, PR, data-driven communications, mobile platforms and products, digital and innovation. The agency is known for its ability to blend creativity, digital and data, to help brands such as Lidl, The Army and Plusnet better engage with consumers using human insight. Or as Karmarama calls it – Connected Creativity. It is one of the most effective agencies in the UK and has won the DMA Grand Prix and an IPA Effectiveness Gold as well as a Cannes Lion for its work for The Army. It was again the highest ranked creative agency in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2020, coming in at 22nd place of all companies in the UK.