As consumers’ wants and needs transform post-pandemic, Meta’s Michelle Yip lists the three ways for brands to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, based on the shortlisted work from this year's WARC Awards for Asian Strategy. View a sample of the case study analysis report here

Every generation has stories of change to tell and our generation has seen its fair share in the last few years. The old adage holds true – change is the only constant.

As we pivot from pre-pandemic to pandemic years and now transitioning into yet another new normal, marketers everywhere had the challenging task of keeping brands relevant in a world that is ever changing with consumers who are even more conscious than before about how they spend their time and money. Consumers increasingly care if brands are authentic, ethical and good for the world. How are we as a marketing community addressing these changing needs?

In this year’s WARC award entries, we see many examples that inspire us on how to evolve brand platforms for sustained relevance and growth.

  1. Stay close to your customer, listen and show up when it matters
  2. Be willing to do things differently but stay true to core values
  3. Make it relevant for your audience

1. Stay close to your customer, listen and show up when it matters

Being customer-focused has never been more important in these changing times. As our customers navigate the changes, their needs and wants change too. Companies who can anticipate these needs and wants, and show up when it matters with a solution, will win their hearts and wallets.

McDonald’s keeps its ears close to the ground and has consistently showed up when it matters for the community. Its locations have been repurposed as vaccination clinics and reunion spots for families post-pandemic, and hosted FIFA World Cup screenings.

The fast food chain once again warmed the hearts of millions when it introduced Eatqual. When McDonald’s realised that eating a burger was a struggle for people with disabilities, it wanted to do something for its community. It introduced packaging that made eating a burger possible with one hand to truly “make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone”. It did this by listening to its customers, co-creating with them and providing a solution that is desired and loved by them. A truly customer-centric approach end-to-end.

It is a reminder that as we consistently use our brand platform for good, it will not only be beneficial for the communities we hope to shed light on but also brings in new audiences for our brands and increase brand love with our existing customers.

2. Be willing to do things differently but stay true to core values

As the winds change, we must adjust our sails to stay on course. This often means that we may have to go out of our comfort zones and even learn new skills. For a brand, doing things differently is a high risk undertaking but necessary agility to hone. In these two case studies, we see how PX Mart expands its core audience without alienating its brand loyals and how UNAIDS seeks to deliver messages differently from how it has always been done and achieve success.

  • Is it possible for a brand that is attractive to value-conscious moms appeal to young adults too? PX Mart, a supermarket chain in Taiwan, won over under-30 shoppers without compromising on its value-centred philosophy and communicated the value of thrift with an audience-focused approach. It was no small feat to appeal to young audiences who were drawn to the coolness and availability of convenience stores.

    To do so, PX Mart launched a multi-year campaign which reframed shopping at PX Mart from being money-pinching to an aspirational thrifting lifestyle. It could have been fearful of losing relevance with its core audience and be resistant to change but instead, it stayed true to its core values and found a creative and relatable way to reach young audiences. With the consistent core message of aspirational thrifting lifestyle that is updated for relatability each year, trust and believability grow. PX Mart showed us that taking risks but staying authentic to your core values pays off.

  • UNAIDS, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, wanted to create awareness and break apathy for transgender children who are most vulnerable to non-acceptance and violence from caregivers. To do this, it knew the usual route of showing indictment would not work as the common belief by caregivers is that gender is not a choice. UNAIDS explored a different approach to break apathy by finding common ground which it believes will aid understanding.

    The familiar treasure boxes which children often love to collect their most precious possessions became the inspiration to help find common ground. Audiences had a peek into the secret childhood of transgender children’s treasure boxes where they hid their identity and this journeying together tugged at the heartstrings of millions, inspiring empathy in those who didn’t understand before. UNAIDS changed the message delivery approach and reached the audience in a way that had not been possible before.

3. Make it relevant for your audience

We have seen no lack of campaigns trying to shift the way we think about plastic use but the one that stopped me and many others in our tracks and made us think is NGO Worldwide Fund for Nature’s Plastic Diet.

WWF launched Your Plastic Diet to increase awareness of how much microplastics we are ingesting every day with the aim of contributing to the work of getting the UN to commit to a globally binding plastic treaty. To do so, it harnessed the power of collective desire by showing how the plastic problem is relevant to each individual. Your Plastic Diet showed us that we involuntarily eat, drink and breathe a credit card of plastic every week. This ignited an unprecedented level of support for change in WWF’s 60-year history. The campaign was launched in June 2019 and in March 2023 at UNEA, 175 attending nations voted unanimously for a Globally Binding Treaty on Plastic.

Why should your audience care about what you have to say? Articulating the problem is insufficient – it must matter to your audience.

This year, our award nominees and winners showed us that it is possible to navigate changes and come out stronger. It seems that by doing right by our consumers and community, we do right by our brands.