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Introducing the Culture Gap – New FleishmanHillard Report Uncovers Generation Divided and Explores How to Bridge Society’s Divisions

October 4, 2022
  • This Global research report, backed by renowned brand expert and Columbia University lecturer Kai D. Wright, points to new cultural dividers in society causing brands need to rebuild and readjust.
  • With global respondents split on brands needing to be bold and brave (52%) versus sensible and conservative (54%), the time for brands to pay attention and act is now. 

ST. LOUIS, October 4, 2022 – Brands are finding themselves paralyzed in a landscape driven apart by culture wars, but new research released today by FleishmanHillard shows businesses must be braver in bridging these issues to stay culturally relevant without losing authenticity to consumers.

The latest study from FleishmanHillard, Authentic Insights: The Culture Gap, Introducing Gen D made in partnership with Columbia University’s Kai D. Wright, puts cultural issues at the heart of the research report to further understand how brands can move out of paralysis on today’s most pertinent topics and find a path forward in closing the current cultural divides in society.

The study unpacks a new generation, Generation Divided (Gen D), at a time when people aren’t just feeling divided within communities; they are feeling a divide within themselves. The context of a polarized world has been well established in recent times, with clear societal divisions increasingly influencing both business and personal lives. The state of divide around us has a clear impact on our internal state of flux and on what’s right and what’s not. Sixty percent of consumers today feel that people are compromising their true self by being too politically correct, and almost half (47%) believe it’s becoming more difficult to get along with people who hold contrasting views. Generation Divided was uncovered by FleishmanHillard’s unique research screening process that moved away from the standard demographic splits based on age and gender. Instead, it examined a range of factors including socioeconomic indicators, gender identity and religious and political beliefs to ensure that all aspects of humanity are reflected within the research.

“In this woke, people power era, action and words are the minimum expectations for ongoing connections to your business and brand,” said Candace Peterson, global head of Brand at FleishmanHillard. “We find many brands in a state of arrested development, unsure of how to move forward amid so much cultural division and so much reputation at stake. The latest study from our Culture Unit at FleishmanHillard explores this tension. It spotlights not just how companies should view culture, but how these cultural divides can be used as a springboard to strengthen their brand reputation and remain, or even become, culturally relevant.”

Key survey findings include:

  • While 67% of respondents wanted brands to be empathetic, 78% felt being authentic was even more important.
  • More than half (55%) think brands should release fewer upgrades/new products over the next year.
  • Although 61% of consumers would choose an employer based on its willingness to take a stand on societal issues, almost as many also agree that employers often fake their interest in DE&I and other societal issues (55%).

“Ultimately, brand and business leaders must prepare to be uncomfortable — ready to shift the practices, processes and policies of producing, releasing and evaluating efficacy of work,” said Columbia University lecturer Kai D. Wright. “No one leader knows the best path for each community, and no business team belongs to every global culture. Continual learning is inherent in leadership to be culturally relevant. Through this report and study, we explore the drivers fueling a growing cultural divide between communities; understand how to anticipate, thrive in and accelerate through the ever-constant of ‘change’; and dive into the role that brands and businesses play in bridging the cultural gap to solve societal issues.”

The Authentic Insights: The Culture Gap, Introducing Gen D reportwas developed by FleishmanHillard’s Culture Unit, a global team of macro culture strategists that enable brands to be brave and take action whilst being thoughtful of the cause they are communicating. The report comes in the wake of the Unit’s industry-first partnerships with the inclusive talent agency Zebedee, and the United Nations’ Unstereotype Alliance. Ongoing partnerships such as these create authentic behavioral change that enable FleishmanHillard to help shape a better world.

The research was conducted by FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence, the agency’s in-house research practice, together with an accredited third-party vendor, which surveyed 5,000 adults – 18 years old and older – across the U.S., UK, China, Germany and Brazil (1,000 per country). The research survey was designed to move away from standard demographic splits based on age and gender, and instead looked at communities through commonalities on a range of factors, including socioeconomic indicators, gender identity, religious beliefs and political leanings to ensure all conditions of humanity are reflected within the research. The survey consisted of two separate 25-question surveys, which were answered online by respondents September 15-20.

The report is available to read and download at fh.pr/AuthenticInsights2022.

About FleishmanHillard  
FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named 2021 PRovoke Global Agency of the Year, 2021 ICCO Network of the Year, 2021 Campaign Global PR Agency of the Year, 2022 PRWeek U.S. Agency of the Year and Outstanding Extra-Large Agency of the Year; 2021 PRovoke APAC Consultancy of the Year; 2021 PRWeek UK Large Consultancy of the Year; Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality 2018-2021; and to Seramount’s (formerly Working Mother Media) “Top Companies for Executive Women” list 2010-2021. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public Relations Group and has nearly 80 offices in more than 30 countries, plus affiliates in 45 countries.  

About Omnicom Public Relations Group   
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, language strategy, global health strategy and change management. As the largest group of communications professionals in the world, our employees provide expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the Communications Consultancy Network, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).    

About Omnicom Group Inc.  
Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (www.omnicomgroup.com) is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, digital and interactive marketing, direct and promotional marketing, public relations, and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 70 countries. Follow us on Twitter for the latest news.  

About Kai D. Wright

Kai D. Wright is a strategic advisor to C-suite executives, founders, and celebrities. He advises on subjects including brand building, digital, and DEI/culture. He has been recognized as a global leader by Thinkers50, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Black Enterprise, Forbes, and the Advertising Research Foundation. A frequent speaker at major conferences and Fortune 500 companies, Wright is an author and lecturer at Columbia University. Kai graduated with a masters in strategic communication from Columbia University and a bachelors in economics from The University of Chicago. An avid traveler, he lived in Germany during his childhood, and has visited over 20 countries.

Cover of report featuring four individuals, two with bull horns