Relationships under duress:
Building Back Consumer Trust in the Cost-of-Living Crisis  

Today, economic crisis and societal shocks are forcing people to scrutinize every aspect of their livelihoods. With the increased cost of goods and services, they are faced with difficult decisions regarding how, where, and what they spend their money and time on. This study on customer and brand relationships dive into the real human impact of the cost-of-living crisis and what brands can do to win trust and customer loyalty while responding with more empathy and clarity.

Download our Value report and access our full documentary to address consumer behavioral changes in the era of relationship thinking.

Value report
  • Watch our full 16 min documentary (trailer below)
  • Learn about the real consumer behavior, human cost-of-living crisis, and relationship strategies.
  • Explore the social, psychological, and behavioral impacts of shoppers.
  • Understand how ‘relationship thinking’ can help brands improve customer service to demonstrate compassion, care, and clarity.
  • Explore five relationship roles to develop newly relevant brand strategies and tactics based on consumer perception.

Cynics, as Oscar Wilde argued, understand the price of everything but the value of nothing. Thus, brands need highly convincing strategies as building relationships with these customers gets tougher. The cost of living crisis has hastened changes in consumer behavior sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, transforming once-deemed temporary reactionary human experiences and behaviors into profound, enduring societal shifts.

The products, experiences, and services we purchase to sustain us – providing food, cleanliness, safety, warmth, or contentment – now come at a higher cost because of the economic crisis, affecting everyone, everywhere. Individuals are delaying long-term decisions in the “fog of uncertainty,” making significant trade-offs in their lives (beyond merely trading down), with nearly a quarter reporting feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and isolation.

Consider Toni, a MROC (market research online community) participant in this project (cost-of-living crisis documentary) and a single mother of twins. Recently, she made the decision to sell her car to allocate additional funds for healthier food options for her kids – and an ice cream treat once a week. She is sacrificing convenience, status, and even freedom for her children’s well-being and long-term health, prioritizing meaningful moments of connection and memories.

VALUE: Relationships Under Duress delves into shifts in human experiences in an ‘age of uncertainty’: the tangible human impact and the role brands must play in this new relationship paradigm to meet consumers expectations and reduce customer churn.

What has often been discussed in quasi ‘benign’ or economic terms – ‘inflation crunch, economic pressures, price increases’ – is, in reality, a perma-crisis that will take years to recover from, already influencing consumer behavior the way people interact with your products and services, your brand, and your category.


The Five Relationship Role Models.

How could your brand embody the consumer landscape to bridge gaps in customer relationships:

VALUE Methodology

Five months, half a dozen planes, seven languages, 1,683 community stories, 1,376 curveballs, and a global team from three different continents working tirelessly to explore today’s biggest topic – Current cost-of-living crisis.

Value methodology