U OK UK? Why brand purpose is more important than ever

Ben Bilboul, CEO of Karmarama & Managing Director at Accenture Interactive introduces a new report to help the marketing sector understand the changes in customer priorities taking place during lockdown.

Ben Bilboul

CEO / Managing Director Karmarama / Accenture Interactive


The world has faced a lot of turmoil of late, presenting unprecedented challenges for people across the globe. These challenges have shifted the role of the marketer too; consumer spend across many areas is dwindling, marketing budgets are declining, whilst they’ve simultaneously been tasked with orchestrating their brand’s response to huge global issues, no mean feat.

To add to the challenge, marketers are well aware of the lasting impact their brand’s response will have, with consumers cognisant of the brands they rated, and those they didn’t, during this time. Sites such as and its leader board of companies’ positive and negative responses to this crisis, will serve as a lasting reminder.

With all that in mind, the pressure is on for marketers to ensure a strong sense of brand purpose that resonates with consumers now and long after COVID-19 subsides, whilst ensuring they steer clear of the COVID clichés that have become commonplace during these times.

So, to help our peers in the marketing sector understand these changes in customer priorities, here at Karmarama we’ve launched our U OK UK? report, analysing conversations from the Twittersphere, as well as conducting research on our panel of Brits living their lives under lockdown. Here are some key takeaways.

7 in 10
people don’t intend on spending a single penny on holidays abroad this year
times more likely the word ‘neighbour’ appears in a social post
of customers agree that looking after staff is the most important thing for brands to prioritise during the pandemic

Empower your customer

According to our lockdown panel, seven in 10 don’t intend on spending a single penny on holidays abroad this year. Instead, they’re investing their time in wholesome activities such as, surprise, surprise, baking, with ‘bread’ six times as likely to appear in social posts these last few months.

It’s but one example of how creativity and adaptability have come to the forefront as people work around the confines of lockdown life, making the most of what they do have and thinking laterally when it comes to keeping themselves occupied by embracing a ‘DIY’ mindset.

Brands should, therefore, empower their customers to ‘do it themselves’, allowing them to recreate their own experiences at home. A number of brands are doing a great job here, whether it’s McDonald’s, Nando’s and Pret a Manger releasing their top-secret recipes or Brew Dog creating virtual pubs that people can socialise in from home. 

More than ever before, recreating these experiences in their own safe habitat is so important for consumers, so even if it’s not driving immediate revenue, these empowered customers will be sure to feel a stronger brand affinity in the long run.  

Buoy community spirit

According to our report, the newfound sense of community people feel has really heightened during these times, with the word ‘neighbour’ eight times more likely to appear in social posts. Those involved in our panel feel less focussed on their own individual concerns and more on how their actions affect others, finding joy in acts of generosity and kindness, whether that’s signing up to be an NHS volunteer, donating to charities or even adopting a new pet which has, interestingly, also boomed.

Brands, therefore, need to ditch the mindset that consumerism is solely individualistic. Customers aren’t thinking of ‘me, me, me’ anymore, they’re engaging with brands that benefit entire communities and groups instead. The likes of Leon, EE, John Lewis Partnership and Wagamama, amongst hundreds of others, for example, are offering discounts to key workers, donating items to hospitals, and creating product lines whose proceeds go to charities.

Supermarkets have also done a good job of highlighting their value within communities and showing they genuinely care. They’ve been praised for going above and beyond to look after the most vulnerable in society and, of our respondents who named a brand that they thought responded well to COVID-19, over half (59%) mentioned a supermarket. Customers are also keen to see brands display a strong sense of care within their organisations, as well as in their consumer-facing strategies. The vast majority of customers (86%) agree that looking after staff is the most important thing for brands to prioritise during the pandemic.

Whilst lockdown measures continue to slowly ease, people will appreciate their friends and family even more and this heightened feeling of compassion and empathy towards others is a sentiment that’s here to stay. According to our research, two thirds of customers are keen to maintain a greater sense of togetherness in a post-pandemic world, so brands really need to consider how this will affect consumer behaviours and desires going forward.

More than ever, consumers want to invest financially and emotionally in brands that understand the pursuit for a greater meaning in their lives, whether that’s offering a higher purpose or empowering people to recalibrate their own. Consumer needs have shifted dramatically and will continue to evolve from here depending on how things play out. Brands should remain considerate of the guidance and support they can provide during this time, creating meaningful engagement with their existing and prospective customers, both now and long-term.

Guest Author

Ben Bilboul

CEO / Managing Director Karmarama / Accenture Interactive


Ben began his advertising career at Still Price Lintas working on Peperami, and the global Lynx/Axe account. In 1996 he moved to St Luke’s, heading up the IKEA account. In 2004 Ben joined Karmarama where he became CEO. Under Ben’s leadership Karmarama grew from a small agency to the UK’s largest independent communications company and by the time it was acquired by Accenture in 2016, which Ben oversaw, it had nearly 300 employees under the Karmarama Comms Group banner, covering CRM, data, design, digital, TV & content production, mobile, social media & PR as well as advertising. Ben continues to run Karmarama but, in addition, heads up the Accenture Interactive Communicate stream in UK and Ireland, representing the three advertising agencies owned by Accenture: Droga5, Rothco and Karmarama.

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