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Insights & Innovation | Resolving Societal Regression: How Brand Leadership Can Make a Positive Impact

From climate to Covid, these are tough times — and, after hiding behind the anonymity of screens for the past 18 months, human behavior has seemingly changed for the worse. We’re all feeling greater division, a loss of connection, and in some cases, even a lack of basic decency. Just think back to early May, when NBA games returned and players were being spat on by rowdy, riotous fans. Have we truly regressed as a society, or have we temporarily lost ourselves as a result of our consequence-free digital worlds?

We’ve already discussed how to market with empathy and awareness as we begin our transition out of the pandemic. But doing the work has raised even more questions — specifically regarding brand leadership.

Right now, many companies recognize the positive role they can play within our new normal. In return, consumers now have even greater expectations for brands to engage through alignment, action, and acceleration.

To dive deeper into this post-pandemic consumer mindset, we worked with Woo Brand Research on a survey of ~2,000 people. Some additional findings include:

  • There is recognition that societal regression has occurred, but consumers remain hopeful about solving issues and creating change.
  • In order for brands to act with “purpose,” there is a growing need to understand consumers with a new and increased focus on mental wellness.


It’s clear that society is fighting opposing forces of regression and resolve. Bad behavior is all around us, and though we might not like it, we’re not sure how to stop it.

In your opinion, do you think being in a Covid-19 bubble since last year has….? Yes/No

However, a more powerful resolve remains. People recognize that we’ve regressed, but still maintain hope for the future. The majority (68%) are feeling “optimistic that we can overcome the challenges the pandemic has created” and (66%) remain hopeful that we will re-emerge stronger.

In your opinion, do you think being in a Covid-19 bubble since last year has….? Yes/No


While resolve is strong, most people are still feeling uncertain, and even a bit lost; 67% say they would like help navigating through this time. That presents an opportunity for brands to stop talking about purpose in general terms and focus on what consumers really need. Most say that mental health, racism, and poverty are now chief among their concerns.

Has Become More Pronounced Because of Covid-19

Mental health may be our biggest challenge as we re-emerge from the pandemic — just think back to a few weeks ago to conversations surrounding the Olympics. As society looks to re-merge from the pandemic, nearly half (48%) of people stated they are very worried about their own mental health or the mental health of a loved one.

What areas of your life do you feel will be challenging as we re-emerge from the pandemic?


Over the past 18 months, it’s become clearer than ever that real purpose is a critical component of consumer engagement. Almost half of consumers find it important for brands to “insert themselves into the narrative of what is happening in the world” and 44% believe they should “address what is happening in the world.” Further, it’s important that brands “lead by example” (63%) and “speak up on the injustices of the world given the platforms they have (53%).”

However, they feel that only a small percentage of brands (35%) genuinely support the values they claim to represent. In fact, 70% claim that most brands only back causes to make themselves look better.

  • 59% believe brands don’t put the work into learning about the causes they support
  • 56% want brands to be bolder and take on controversial topics.

To consumers, real commitment means ALIGNMENT, ACTION, and ACCELERATION.

Saving money will always be at the top of consumers’ minds. But now, life is different — and people expect brands to help them make sense of what has been, and continues to be, a chaotic time. Through real commitment, trust, and support, brands can help people regain a sense of normalcy — and a sense of themselves.

Woo Brand Research is an insight and strategy consulting agency specializing in helping brands understand the consumer mindset and shopper journey in the digital age. We develop custom quantitative and qualitative research to understand consumers from all angles including generational trends to effectively develop marketing communications and campaigns and brand positioning.