We have entered a "new world disorder" in which crises no longer follow one another but are simultaneous and interdependent. Barely out of the grip of a pandemic, we are now faced with a polycrisis: geopolitical, economic (with bank failures), climate, refugees, social and identity-related, not to mention conflicts and terrorism.
Inflation is one of the concrete manifestations of this polycrisis, a term coined and publicised by the economist and historian Adam Tooze to describe the interaction of crises, some cyclical and others structural, which have been building up for more than two years. This rare alignment is having a direct impact on people's lives all over the world, with rising energy prices driving up the price of all products and all forms of transport, the scarcity of resources and raw materials, the limits on what the planet can produce, recurring crop failures, the priority given to local populations reducing exports, and so on. And with an element that is often forgotten – but has an impact on prices – the rise in the cost of production (the wages of workers in the manufacturing sector in China have increased tenfold in ten years).
On the economic front, the price of the most basic and essential products and services (food, transport, hygiene, clothing, etc.), emblematic of the bottom of Maslow's pyramid, has been rising steadily for over a year and a half. Inflation is now the world's number one concern and is among the issues that French people have been most worried about over the next six months (86%), ahead of the war in Ukraine (64%) and climate change (58%). Psychologically and socially, polycrisis creates a climate of uncertainty and doubt, the effect of which Musset described as long ago as 1836, as when "you don't know, with every step you take, whether you're treading on seed or debris".
Today's consumer-citizens feel that our world is changing beyond our control, question the ability of the authorities to cope with change, find it very difficult to project themselves into a future synonymous with progress, and are more tempted by withdrawal and protectionism than by expansion and openness.
Psychologically and socially, polycrisis creates a climate of uncertainty and doubt
Brands face two simultaneous challenges: emerge and be preferred when consumers are increasingly picking and choosing because their discretionary purchasing power is diminishing and show that they can have a positive impact on planet and society alike.
Adler and Freud had already highlighted that people’s motivations change with context. The current polycrisis increases the need for security and control, and the desire to indulge oneself.
Knowing how to respond to them means for brands demonstrating a first type of empathy by showing that they have fully understood consumers' expectations, supporting their choices and providing them with beacons in an unstable world. The need for security entails an emphasisis on a brand's origins, roots and expertise – particularly in the food sector, which is regularly rocked by scandals. It is worth noting that the percentage of French consumers who state that they "pay more attention to the origin of their food purchases since Covid-19" continued to rise, from 44% in 2020 to 53% in 2022, with 46% making the same observation for their non-food purchases.
Polycrises can of course also be full of opportunities for nimble organisations. A proactive social and environmental responsibility stance can make a difference, while consumers value brands that offer solutions (product or service) that help them be more “virtuous” without sacrificing convenience or affordability.
The more uncertainty such a polycrisis create, the more brands will need to show empathy with consumers
We can see, for example, that organic food sales have fallen in supermarkets and specialist shops, whereas they have risen in direct sales and from craft retailers (up by 7.8% and 5.8% respectively between 2021 and 2022).
Knowing whether the increasingly negative view of globalisation is cyclical or lasting could also be a determining factor. This is one of the effects of the polycrisis, a retreat to the known, the close, the small, which underlies the stated preference for national and local brands. How can brands also capitalise on this trend?
Finally, the more uncertainty such a polycrisis create, the more brands will need to show empathy with consumers, which makes it even more important to get to know them in practice: as they really are, behave and think.
That's precisely what Ipsos Flair is all about.
Table of content
- An introduction to Flair France 2023: The era of polycrisis?
- The secrets of happiness
- Is "local" the new magic word?
- The 2022 advertising awards for the general public
- New forms of mobility
- Why is luxury outpacing inflation?