Conflicts and Contradictions

Havas study uncovers the deeply contradictory nature of shoppers

A new study from Havas uncovers some deeply contradictory global issues that shoppers around the world will recognise. The study of 12,000 people across 32 countries explores the current global tensions between love of shopping and ownership, and a desire to do right by the planet and the people in it.

Consumers are seeking to strike a balance between guilt and pleasure. Most of those surveyed say that buying new things makes them feel good, and yet 61% are making an effort to consume less. Nearly half of millennials admit to sometimes feeling guilty about the things they buy.

We can make more of a difference by consuming products than by voting in elections. The majority surveyed are convinced they can have more influence on society as consumers than as voters, and that they can use that power to influence anything – from the life of an individual along the supply chain to the policies of a major corporation. Today, around half of us are making an effort to buy more products that support good causes. 43% of millennials say they often buy or refuse to buy a product based on the company’s expressed values or socio-political activities.

Often, buying more carefully begins with buying less. Nearly two-thirds of the global sample are trying to consume only what they truly need. That is a sharp change from decades of conspicuous consumption and “shopping till we drop.” And it’s a global trend, with majority agreement levels in 30 of the 32 markets surveyed. This contrasts with the fact that over 47% believe that a healthy economy requires a high level of consumer spending and furthermore 38% believe that spending less will destroy jobs.

We have entered an era of MEaningful consumption—a time when people are acknowledging the negative consequences of their choices and accepting personal responsibility for doing something about them. A majority of those surveyed are making an effort to consume more responsibly, whether that means buying less, being more mindful about a product’s eco-impact, or supporting brands that are making a positive difference in the world. Yet people are looking for simplified shopping. 63% of millennials often wish it were easier to decide which product to buy, and around half the global sample admit to often feeling overwhelmed by the product choices in the supermarket. Around 4 in 10 millennials say that having multiple options for a particular product stresses them out.

Sometimes the best “deal” is less about getting than giving. Nearly 77% say it makes them feel good to support local producers, artisans and manufacturers. 71% are willing to pay a bit more for a product if a portion of the proceeds goes to a good cause. Yet at the same time every penny counts. The “value for money” equation has returned to the fore. 53% of us are asking more often today whether a purchase they are considering is worth the price.

Marianne Hurstel, Global Chief Strategy Officer, BETC comments “We can see that we have entered into a new era of modern contradictions which is hard for brands to manage. The challenge is to take guilt out of the equation by giving people genuine reasons to feel good about their purchases—not just at the cash register but to their lives in general. Brands must connect with their consumers in far more consequential ways. We know from our ongoing Meaningful Brands study that people would not care if 74% of brands were to disappear overnight. In part, that comes down to the fact that most brands are failing to meet our heightened expectations. At Cannes Lions this year we will see more and more brands being recognised that help us break free from these contradictions and provide something that delivers genuine meaning to our lives.”

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