Brands must support consumers facing financial squeeze

New research by media agency UM reveals that consumers believe brands should be doing more to help consumers through the cost of living crisis

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Brands must do more to support consumers in navigating the cost of living crisis, which is having a devastating impact on the nation’s mental health.

According to research from media agency UM, seven out of ten UK adults believe brands should play a key role in helping them to navigate the cost-of-living crisis, but more than half (57%) also feel that brands could do more to help consumers.

Three quarters of consumers (74%) would welcome financial advice from brands. While 60% want them to display increased sensitivity to people’s financial struggles. The research underlines the need for brands to continue to embrace sensitivity and awareness of the emotional and economic pressures consumers are navigating on a daily basis.

Retail and finance scored highest when people were asked which sectors featured brands that are most helpful when it comes to the cost of living. However, in each case, only a quarter (25%) of consumers agreed they were doing enough.

Slightly fewer (23%) consumers felt utilities brands were doing enough to help them, but automotive and property businesses were rated lowest, with a mere 13% of respondents suggesting they were offering enough support.

The mental health impact of the UK’s rising costs can’t be underestimated.

Wendy Robinson, Head of Services at CALM

Brands need to do more to address the cost of living crisis 

The in-depth analysis of 2,000 UK consumers was designed to explore what stops people from talking about their money worries, and the effect financial concerns have on mental health.

Kim Lambert, Group Insights Director at UM, explained: “We’re already seeing a shift in how, when and where people shop due to the financial downturn. The mental health impact of those pressures is perhaps not as obvious, but as this study underlines it can be even more impactful.”

In response to the wider research findings, mental health charity CALM and MoneySuperMarket have launched the Money Talks report to support the campaign. The campaign aims to help overcome the taboo of talking about financial concerns.

The Money Talks research found that 86% of UK adults worry about money, with more than a fifth reporting feelings of reduced self-worth (22%), inadequacy (23%) and hopelessness (22%) over their current financial situation. However, 75% said they have not spoken to anyone about their money worries.     

In addition, half (51%) said they wished the stigma attached to talking about money didn’t exist.

Lis Blair, Chief Customer Officer at MoneySuperMarket, explained: “The Money Talks campaign aims to break the taboo of talking about money worries and help as many people as possible get the support they need. Working with our charity partner CALM, we’ve brought together MoneySuperMarket’s experts’ advice, guides, tips and information into one easy to access Money Talks hub online.

Wendy Robinson, Head of Services at CALM, added: “The mental health impact of the UK’s rising costs can’t be underestimated. When the cost-of-living crisis began, our services saw a 43% increase in chats about cash, and they’ve remained steady since then. People often feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about money, which means they’re far less likely to get support or reassurance from friends, family, or other external sources.”

She continued: “It's really heartening to see that people want to start talking about financial pressures and smashing the stigma around cash. However, the research highlights how much brands need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. They need to stand up for consumers now more than ever – and that starts with listening to what people need from them.”

When it comes to how companies should advertise during the cost-of-living crisis, UM’s research suggests 61% of consumers want brands to focus on how they provide value, for example through special offers. While almost half (49%) want to see helpful advice such as tips on how to save. The tonal execution of campaigns also needs careful consideration as 60% want increased sensitivity to the struggles so many people are facing. 

Kim Lambert, Group Insight Director at UM, added: “Consumers have had to rethink their purchasing habits in recent years – and marketers have needed to adapt quickly. However, there are wider issues that need to be addressed responsibly if brands are to avoid adding to the pressures personal finances are already putting on people’s mental health.”

She continues: “Different categories need to take a considered approach, which takes into account what people do and don’t want to see and what is appropriate. All categories need to advertise in sensitivity of the fact that there is very real widespread money related stress in society at the moment. Insight into what consumers want, and how they want brands to communicate with them, is vitally important right now.”

As the cost of living crisis continues to bite brands need to prioritise consistency, clarity and sensitivity in their communication strategies.


To find out more about the Money Talks campaign click here.