15 December 2022

The Truth about Britain

What we can learn from brands in times of crisis

Recently, I went to McCann Worldgroup’s ‘Truth Central’ series which are deep research studies into how people think and feel about things like wellness, sustainability, and luxury. This time it’s about Britain.

Now in its 11th wave and 15 years later, I heard the latest on what people of Britain think about their country and the current mood of Britain today.

What springs to mind for you?

The cost of living, house prices, Brexit, Prime Ministers, the Football?

Some of these topics were covered when asked about their worries and thinking about Britain today, but the most used word in the study was ‘uncertainty’. This, I find alarming (but of course unsurprising) as it feels like one crisis after another.

But in the wake of cascading crises, there’s a renewed call for decency in British society – and an opportunity for brands to step in. According to the study, British people are increasingly comfortable with their favourite brands entering political discourse or taking a stance on climate issues. Fascinatingly, a ¼ of Brits believe that brands should make more political statements.

High levels of trust in supermarkets and banks indicate an affinity with brands that have been leaders in times of uncertainty. British consumers have a greater preference for brands that are local rather than international, speak to everyone rather than the individual, are environmentally friendly rather than a good price, and, understand people’s frustrations.

Supermarkets were mentioned regularly in the study, they warrant reliability, fairness, ethics and transparency and stability among all the chaos. Many ran certain opening hours for NHS staff, some donated fruit and veg, to Tesco more recently launching a ‘reverse supermarket’, called ‘The Give Back Express’, to let customers buy items for food banks. Aldi even came in at number 3 for ‘if brands were given political status’. From its ‘low-price promise’ directly in line with the cost of living to ‘low waste to no waste campaign’ which aims at reducing their waste by providing low-cost bags of food for people on lower incomes. Even Kevin the Carrot and Aldi branded Christmas jumpers adds a smile to many festive faces. Aldi is doing many things well.

Think meaning over money

A great quote from Dr Rodney Collins was ‘Be more Supermarket’.

So what can we learn from these brands from an employee perspective?

From Brexit to Ukraine, Anti Vax to Roe v Wade, there’s been increasing pressure for employers to have a say on issues that directly affect their employees. But a political ‘statement’ isn’t needed. True leadership is. And sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Many donated, scenario planned, reassured, was truly honest, said something rather than nothing, expanded their healthcare travel benefits but with salaries stagnating and the increased cost of living, what will employers do now?

We need a longer, more sustainable response. We spend so much of our lives at work, what’s it for? Money of course, but what else? A sense of purpose.

Businesses are focusing more and more on the need to innovate and as many as 63.4% of executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit said a sense of purpose helps them innovate and better able to disrupt or respond to disruption.

Let’s not forget the students who say it’s more important to find a job that allows them to do what they love, than to find a job that pays well (73% vs 20%).

If you’re a founder, executive or decision maker, consider how you can soften the uncertainty. How can you grow a sense of community, build reliability, transparency and ethics, pride and decency?

Our advice – be more supermarket – think meaning over money.


To find out more about the study head to: Truth about Britain

Are you unsure how to navigate a difficult situation with your employees? Or is your culture in need of a boost?

We provide communication support, content, strategies and employment consultancy on how to help organisations navigate uncertainty and change.  The result? More engaged and productive places to work. Feel free to contact me. Let’s have a conversation: chloe.foy@mccannsynergy.com


Chloe Foy, Behavioural Strategist

Our people unleashing the power of your people

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