dove 10vs10

From Societal to Personal - The New Brand Imperative

Weber Shandwick's CSO Gen Kobayashi explains why the world is increasingly prioritising “me” over “we” and what that means for brands

By Gen Kobayashi

Recently, Dove launched a new campaign entitled, ‘10 vs 10’. The campaign features images of 10-year-old girls today, juxtaposed with images of 10-year-old girls taken 10 years ago. The images of the girls today show girls applying skincare creams in mirrors whereas the girls from 2014 are innocently playing and doing what you imagine a 10-year-old girl to do. The call to action is an urgent question: “Why did 10 stop looking like this?”.

As a parent of a 12-year-old daughter, this campaign really struck a chord with me. I’ve seen our daughter falling down the TikTok rabbit hole of skincare. She spends an inordinate amount of time applying different moisturisers and anti-ageing creams every morning and evening. My wife and I have had to curb her enthusiasm as it’s not just (really) expensive, we hold genuine concerns over what anti-ageing skincare products that are made for adults can do to a child’s skin. And so, it would seem we are not alone in this concern and Dove has quite brilliantly tapped into this cultural shift and is making a stand against brands selling adult skincare products to children.

Dove has been championing self-esteem and real beauty for many years but this campaign feels like it speaks to a shift in direction from societal campaigning with its original Campaign for Real Beauty which promoted a societal reframe of beauty to this more personal approach to what is troubling parents of younger girls today.

And this shift from societal to personal is something that we’ve uncovered here at Weber Shandwick in Wave 1 of our “What We Value” study. This is an ongoing global quantitative and qualitative analysis of over 4,000 people across the globe from North America to Europe and Asia Pacific to understand what people really value from brands. Whilst the study has been surprising and revelatory in many ways, one of the key findings is that three out of four people globally claim that what they value has dramatically changed over the last five years. This change has been driven by macro societal shifts such as COVID and the cost of living crisis and there has been a knock-on effect when it comes to what people value from brands too, the most striking being the focus away from societal value to a far more personal value for people.

What do we mean by this? When surveyed, here are three key themes from our research that represent this shift from societal to personal value.

Me Over We.

Our research told us that personal emotional value is the most important value contribution a company or brand can make. So much so that providing personal emotional value to people is seen as 2x as important as other factors such as societal or social value.

Inside Out.

This research told us that people are shifting inwards more than ever and are looking for personal safety, security, health and happiness over and above anything else from brands. 23% of people are looking for brands to help them feel secure and 22% are looking for brands to help them feel healthier.

Societal tilts selfward.

This doesn’t mean that people don’t appreciate brands taking a stand or supporting broader societal action, but it means that people believe brands doing good for the world, have to start with “me” and “mine” first. Our qualitative analysis uncovered that for many, brands treating “people well” were being used as a proxy for brands that will treat ME well.

Whilst this is only the 1st wave of our longitudinal study, it is giving clear indications that society as a whole is shifting to be far more focused on what brands can do to help with fundamental human personal needs and whilst positive societal impact from brands is welcomed, it can’t come at the expense of the individual’s needs first.

One brand that has really embraced this notion of putting more “me in the “we” has been Mattel’s Barbie. The recent surge in popularity of Barbie started long before the launch of the movie last year. It was a journey that started years ago, in partnership with Weber Shandwick, the Barbie brand has focused on driving relevancy at a highly personal and individual level with kids all over the world. With 22 ethnicities and 9 different body types, there are now over 175 different types of Barbie dolls available for kids to engage with. This represents a commitment to the individual and the personal whilst simultaneously having a societal impact.

As the world continues to evolve and culture, people and expectations shift, we expect to see what we value from brands change over time too so we look forward to monitoring this and sharing our findings with the wider industry over time.

Gen Kobayashi is the chief strategy officer, EMEA at Weber Shandwick


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