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Connections matter. What consumers want from brands

The pandemic, inflation and a just need for some fun have each changed the way people connect to brands.

3 min read

Brands & Campaigns

brands connect with consumers

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The pandemic has not only transformed the way people live and work, but also what they want and expect from brands. A few recent studies reveal some key insights for marketers that they can use to build more meaningful connections with consumers. 

Arnold Worldwide’s second annual proprietary BrandUp study, which surveyed US consumers about their connections to 291 brands across more than 35 categories, reveals that inspiring both a universal and personal connection is a key ingredient of the most successful brands.

The research discovered 4 main findings:

  • The pandemic effect on connection. Younger Americans, those ages 18 to 34, are using YouTube and TikTok to connect universally and personally with brands, while those ages 35 to 65 now have stronger bonds with health care brands. 
  • Rising inflation. A rise in the cost of living is driving deeper bonds between consumers and brands that offer discounts or low-cost products. The technology industry’s focus on customer convenience also is fostering strong connections. 
  • Consumers want some fun. Despite the pandemic and rising inflation, or perhaps as a result of it, Americans want happy, fun experiences from brands.  Brands that offer creative, fun and imaginative experiences are driving deeper connections.
  • Inclusivity is important. Brands that demonstrate diversity and create inclusive experiences are winning over multicultural audiences. 


How can marketers create stronger connections?

A separate study by Upcity and Pollfish found that 51% of North American businesses are changing their branding strategy in light of the pandemic to better respond to customer needs. 

The biggest change brands are making is to the platforms they use to connect with consumers and their greatest challenge is responding to evolving customer needs, the report states. 

Marketing academics at the University of London talk in this article about how the pandemic has made consumers more aware of brand purpose and savvier about which brands are genuinely committed to inclusivity and other societal issues. 

“You can’t just have strong selling messages when people are worried they’re not going to have a job tomorrow, or they’re not going to have the money to pay their bills. Brands have to come closer to consumers and be much more understanding,” says Dr Benedetta Crisafulli, a senior lecturer in marketing.

“The social purpose of the brand has never been more important. The fundamental of marketing is about being customer oriented,” Crisafulli adds. 

This focus on customer understanding, and the issues identified in Arnold’s report – inclusivity, value, convenience and fun – were echoed in Talkwalker and Hootsuite’s recent Brand Love Report

“Brands who put authenticity and courageous creativity at the core of their plans are the ones who generate the most brand love,” said Hootsuite’s Maggie Lower.


All of the research indicates that marketers who want to drive deep connections with consumers still feeling the effect of the pandemic and other stress factors such as inflation, would be wise to demonstrate empathy, make life easier through convenience and value, be truly inclusive and help their audiences to rediscover fun. 

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