Watch Your Language

Consumers want empathy from brands, even as it erodes publicly

Method Communications

Here’s a statistic that should cause organizations everywhere to pause: 2 in 3 Americans say empathy in this country has decreased in the last year. Despite Americans living through shared challenges and experiences, most feel that empathy actually fell behind in 2022. 

These results point to a major challenge: how can brands resonate with consumers when connection feels more out of reach every year? 

Our new study, “Watch your Language: Think Like A Brand, Speak Like A Person,” surveyed more than 2,000 Americans to better understand the state of empathy in consumer-brand relationships. We found that 47% of Americans want to hear more human-centric stories in the news and from brands. And 37% of consumers say that they enjoy reading content from brands and that it makes them feel more connected to the companies. 

“Emotional connection is a must for brands to really make a difference with their customers,” said David Parkinson, Method CEO and co-founder. “Making your voice heard is key to empowering both the consumer and brand – it’s why we put in the work to really understand each other.”

Our report offers further insights on how factors like language and values correlate with the practice of empathy under different scenarios. The findings suggest that creating actionable change starts by really understanding the ways we communicate — and miscommunicate — with each other. 

Below are a few points that capture the data we found on how Americans think about social issues, word choice and self-censoring speech:

Social Issues and Purchase Behavior

67% of Americans say a brand’s stance on social issues impacts their purchase behavior. 

Americans want to see the brands they purchase from taking a stance on social issues. But if the brand comes down on the “wrong side” of a hot-button issue, consumers are primed and ready to boycott. 

  • 42% of Americans have stopped shopping with a brand because of its stance.
    • 32% have purchased something because of a brand’s stance.
  • 34% of Americans pay attention to brands’ stances on social issues so that their spending aligns with their personal values.
  • Although 26% of Americans admit to still shopping with brands they disagree with, they say they feel guilty about it. 

Word Choice

47% of Americans worry about the words they use everyday. 

With competing social winds — a shift away from derogatory or exclusionary language vs. free-speech activism — Americans feel a potential storm brewing with each word choice. 

  • 74% of Americans worry about their word choice at least once a month. 
    • Only 10% never worry about their word choice.
  • 58% of Americans worry about their word choice among strangers. Half (51%) worry about it among acquaintances in social situations and 43% worry about it at work. 
  • 42% of Americans often self-censor so that they don’t accidentally say something controversial.

The report’s overall research on consumer decision-making and behavior provides important data and insights that can help brands understand the role of empathy in their business models and connect with their audiences on a deeper level.

Watch your Language: Think Like A Brand, Speak Like A Person
A Method Research Report