In Coming Elections, Brands Won't Get By On Eggshells

Consumers will be hungrier for value brands like Aldi in the year ahead.

Forrester is making predictions about the biggest consumer trends ahead, and one promises to create countless no-win scenarios for brands: contentious elections around the world.

Brands will want to play it safe. However, consumers are increasing their expectations that brands take issue on political and social issues, and perceived inaction will provoke consumer contempt. Forrester anticipates that consumers will punish an average of five brands they perceive as staying too neutral.

“About 4 billion people are going to go to the polls next year,” says Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. That includes elections in India, Russia, and the U.K., as well as the coming barn-burner in the U.S. And while the Olympics are typically a marquee event for advertisers, 2024’s summer games in Paris offer another stage for consumers to angrily denounce the brands they believe wrongly endorse one point of view, or timidly stay silent.



“It’s going to be a very fractious year,” he says.

Consumers are highly sensitive and looking to pick a fight, adds Audrey Chee-Read, a principal analyst in Forester’s CMO practice. And following recent brand crises at Bud Light and Target, consumers will be exceptionally watchful for companies that are “values-washing.”

The recent Bud Light and Target sagas serve as a warning for brands. “Before, these objections were typically just a tempest in a teacup, but the Bud Light impact has stuck.”

What the best brands have done, he says, is take progressive steps “without coming out and making a big deal about it.” Target’s early switch away from the pink-and-blue world of baby clothes is a notable example, and "it was also one of the first retailers to make gender-neutral bathrooms available.”

“Another major change is a pivot toward value,” says Chee-Read. After spending up a storm in 2022, consumers will be more self-aware when they shop. That’s good news for private-label brands and bargain-focused retailers like Costco and Aldi. But she predicts this push for value will also show up in methods like trials, special offers, bundles and payment plans.

Another shift is digital detoxing, which may even eclipse diet and fitness goals in New Year’s resolutions. Consumers are becoming even more concerned about reducing screen time after the U.S. Surgeon General’s recent advisory on limiting social media.

Forrester’s most recent consumer benchmark found that U.S. adults’ sense of being overwhelmed online increased by five percentage points between 2020 and 2023.

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