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Re-enchantment means delivering on emotion

Marie Stafford of WPP’s Wunderman Thompson tells us we are entering the age of re-enchantment – where the new brand metrics will centre on emotion: heart swells, spine tingles, even a few goosebumps

Troubled times are leaving people feeling jaded, dislocated and disconnected. People are yearning for emotional experiences that help them be present and experience life in a more intense, visceral way, and they are open to brands delivering them. There’s a powerful opportunity for brands to lean into this state of mind, to help consumers transcend the malaise, by celebrating the magical, the thrilling, the awe-inspiring and the magical.

Wunderman Thompson is calling this: The Age of Re-enchantment

Disruption is causing a re-set 

“There are a lot of things going on in the world that are disrupting people's wellbeing,” says Stafford. “And technology has rationalised a lot of our day-to-day lives while taking some of the magic and serendipity out of it. We also spend plenty of time working, and people are tending to take less time for rest and leisure compared with a couple of decades ago.”

That is why Wunderman Thompson has discovered a real appetite for brands to bring “the light”, as Stafford calls it. “People are looking for re-enchantment, which might be expressed in a multitude of ways. We talked about the ‘joyconomy’ in The Future 100: 2023, which was a starting point for this new report. We had already seen a stirring of the desire among consumers for experiences that are defined by joy and wonder. That is why we undertook a deep dive into this point of view,” she says. 

“Re-enchantment can be around joy, but it might also be around awe, magic and surprise. It could be to do with mystery and even, interestingly, dark content – we are definitely seeing people lean into this. This might seem counterintuitive, but experts are explaining this desire for dark content as a need for a coping mechanism,” she says. “It can be explained as a need for mastery, and it can result in a sense of wellbeing because people feel they've achieved something by being challenged. There are many ways brands can dip into this way of thinking.” 

Different audiences; different solutions 

However, no single approach will work across all audiences. “This is about designing experiences,” says Stafford. “It’s about finding opportunities within these experiences where you can inject moments of joy, whether it's a surprise, whether it's a challenge, whether it gives you goosebumps – it is for us to help our clients craft these experiences and to enchant consumers.” 

A lot of this desire for re-enchantment is about imagining a better world. It draws on concepts around sustainability and inclusion – trends that are very much on the corporate agenda. In practice, this could mean brands lean into ecology or equity, for example. Or they may even take a fresh perspective on accepted wisdoms – in terms of shaping society for the better. 

“One of the most on-trend ideas is the concept of generative awe,” says Stafford. “People are playing with generative AI and using it to expand their imaginations.” And the tools for doing so are now firmly in the public domain – no wonder consumers are demonstrating such an appetite for enchantment. 

“Brands have the skills, resources and capability to excite consumers, so it is a question of whether they seize the opportunity,” says Stafford. “We’re already responding to this appetite, but more can be done given the talent we have.” 

She continues: “People want to see inspiration from a brand. They love the inspiration they find in the games they play, in the films they watch, in the music they listen to, and they are open to seeing it from brands. Our data shows that people are prepared to spend on products from brands who deliver these kinds of experience.” 

And we are not talking about huge initiatives – a moment of joy can come in an instant. Consumers just want their emotions and senses activated. 

Rethinking metrics and actions 

So how do we measure a moment of joy? What do metrics around emotion and humanity look like? How do we measure how a brand makes a consumer feel, if it makes them more connected to their communities, if it makes them gasp? 

“Brands could build much more emotionally rooted relationships if they thought about metrics like these, as well as the really important financial metrics,” says Stafford. “In addition to thinking about emotional KPIs, brands need to think about creating sensory experiences. The desire among consumers to touch, smell, hear, feel is surging at the moment, and this is starting to bubble up in creative work. The question is, though, how do you do this, and how do you do it virtually?” 

What is beyond question, however, is that consumers are not only open to brands seeking to engage them emotionally. Increasingly, they will expect it.  

Marie Stafford

Wunderman Thompson

published on

10 July 2023


Communications Experience

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