Report: It's time for brands to ditch sentimentalism and tap into consumer momentum

New Leo Burnett research into Australian consumer sentiment identifies key trends and influences on consumer behaviours and attitudes as Australia steps out of lockdowns and shutdowns

The time for sentimentalism has passed and Australian consumers are gaining a new sense of momentum and positivity as they look to forge forward rather than go back, according to a new report.

The fresh Opening up: Australia Today and Tomorrow research report from Leo Burnett / Humankind Intelligence Report has taken a deep dive into how Australian consumers are feeling as the country starts to emerge from the shutdowns and lockdowns brought about by the Covid-19 global pandemic, and what it means for the brands and businesses engaging with them.

Not surprisingly, the report noted a divide across state and even regional lines across the country, pointing out there is no one Australian consumer for brands and businesses to speak to. However, several consumer trends were identified off the national quantitative survey of 1281 individuals in September.

The first was the notion that Australians have been rattled but are hopeful of a bright tomorrow. As Leo Burnett put it, more people believe Australia has made progress forwards than believe it has gone backwards. More people are also confident about its future than not confident about its future. But it’s all one or the other.

The most dominant emotions experienced by people were both ‘hopeful’ and ‘anxious’. The report showed 59 per cent of those in Greater Melbourne and 69 per cent of Sydney’s LGAs of concern displayed positivity towards the future. The contrasted with an overall Australian figure of 56 per cent. Overall, 59 per cent of respondents were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ optimistic about the future.

The agency also claimed the time for sentimentalism has passed as Australians become ready to act ad laugh once more. High on the list of activities consumers are now looking to enjoy from 2022 are domestic travel (52 per cent) and socialising more (45 per cent). The report also noted comedies are more salient with people than dramas in terms of entertainment preferences.

In addition, the report pointed to a sense of momentum and desire to forge ahead evident in Australian consumer sentiment. The survey found 60.3 per cent of Australian consumers want to use this moment to ‘create something new’, while only 25.6 per cent wanted to ‘go back to the way things were’.

Improvement is the catchcry here. The report found two-thirds of Australians saw the past 20 months as a period where ‘time’ increased in significance, and where they found a new level of personal resilience, tolerance and adaptability. The next highest on this list was learning ‘something new/surprising about myself’.  

In addition, in weighing up what’s most important right now, 57 per cent chose mental wellbeing over physical wellbeing, 60 per cent chosen connection to community against connection to country, 72 per cent chose people working together versus looking after themselves, and 52 per cent chose job flexibility over job security.

And there’s more trust about, too. According to the report, 62 per cent of respondents are more trusting of brands and businesses and 77 per cent are more trusting of their local community than pre-pandemic.

Despite a sense of optimism, new triggers are causing tension. For example, 36.1 per cent expressed concern relationships with friends and family may have been negatively affected by differences brought about during the crisis around vaccines as well as vaccine passports.

Across the younger 12-17-year-old cohort, Leo Burnett also cited the rise of a ‘lost generation’ who feel they have missed out on life at a rate higher than the rest of the nation (51 per cent versus the next highest cohort, 245-32-year-olds, at 40 per cent).

Leo Burnett head of strategy, Graham Alvarez-Jarratt, had four modes of action propelling human behaviour into the new year that brands and businesses will need to factor into planning and creative as a result.

The first is “making up for lost time”, as Australians seek to reconnect with what was taken away during the pandemic. The second is “revelling in the moment”, or seeking out moments of indulgence and hedonism, while a third is a desire to fashion “a new me” based on what matters most to the individuals. The fourth mode is what Alvarez-Jarratt described as “a new world”, or consumers on a mission to experiment with how things can be, rather than how they were.  

“We’re seeing that people don’t necessarily want to go back to the way things were, and instead are ready to experiment with how things could be,” he commented. “The exciting part for brands is how they shift their behaviour, and better support people as they seek to create a world that better serves them.”

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