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News & Views

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  • 3 December 2020
  • Darren Young

New blog: Building back better will be easy won't it?

We’ve all heard the phrase build, back, better many times of late.

From new investment and fiscal incentives to drive a more meaningful and thoughtful recovery from the pandemic, right through to being a central message of the winning Joe Biden US Presidential campaign, its driven conversation and regular column inches, and will continue to do so.

We all have our own expectations and interpretations of the phrase and what its meaningful legacy might be. And if you look at recent survey evidence, these expectations have clearly not diminished as the pandemic has prevailed.

In a special trust barometer poll recently, Edelman found that a staggering 89% of consumers want brands to solve at least one wider societal issue, and that not surprisingly climate change still ranked as the top challenge in a relatively long list.

Brand trust is a top purchase driver, with 60% of consumers saying they have turned to brands they trust during the pandemic. But with 62% of those surveyed feeling brands are regularly “trust-washing”, communications and actions have some way to go before they can claim cut-through, and credit can be apportioned.

So, the challenges (both societal and communications) are real.

Clearly many brands have stepped up during the 2020 crisis, and all credit to them for doing so.

But the honeymoon period for these brands could be short-lived if they fail to use their perceived economic influence to deliver on their commitments to make a positive change.

Just this week, Apple and Amazon are being called to account in a Parliamentary Committee Report for their perceived failure to collect, recycle and repair their products, in order to cut the 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste being thrown away each year in the UK.

Amazon has a large share (estimates suggest 90%) of the online electronics market globally and reading like your average wedding present list, pressure cookers, waffle makers, electric kettles, toasters, blenders, and microwaves are some of the most popular choices.

And with Millennials – the marketing group which is largely driving demands for climate action and purposeful brands - outpacing Baby Boomers by a ratio of two to one for using Amazon as a shopping tool, there seems little room to ignore the warnings.

On the same day, it was claimed UK supermarkets and fast food outlets are selling chicken fed on imported soya linked to thousands of forest fires and at least 300 sq miles (800 sq km) of tree clearance in the Brazilian Cerrado (vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil). Tesco, Lidl, Asda, McDonald’s, Nando’s and other high street retailers all source chicken it was claimed, fed on soya supplied by trading giant Cargill, the US’s second largest private company. Rainforest and habitat destruction, opaque supply chain reporting and confusing labelling were all cited as contributing to mounting climate problems.

Recent vaccine news is giving us all hope of a return to normality. But that normality is likely to look very differently for brands, and any hope that the spotlight might shine less brightly on them is likely to be a misplaced one.

And as for who coined the phrase build back better first, Boris or Biden, the answer is neither. It was Andrew Cuomo in New York apparently.