New consumer trend: Moveable Morality

November 16, 2022

Our Trending 2023 report unveils new opportunities for the year ahead by shining a light on consumers’ rebellious mindset. With consumers rebelling against perfection, authority, surveillance and restraint, there are implications for brands who want to maintain relevance and strengthen loyalty. Below, we explore one of the four new trends that will define the year ahead, and how to activate it.

Unlock more new trends for 2023 by downloading our free Trending 2023 Report Preview.

In 2023, we will see a rebellion against authority.

2023 is shaping up to be yet another year of debate and fragmentation . One of the symptoms of a polarised society is that it is difficult for governments and other institutions to command the respect of a majority of citizens. Sound familiar?

Our recent consumer research shows that significant proportions of consumers take a relaxed attitude to minor infringements of rules and laws – for instance, driving faster than the speed limit – and this may continue to grow as respect for authority falters. Consumers are looking to brands to be, if not partners in crime, then at least understanding of their need to act out against the powers that be.

To reflect the rebellion against authority, we have launched a new trend for 2023:

Questioning centralised authority in favour of personal judgements about what is right.

What is Moveable Morality?

Consumers doubt the wisdom of traditional authority figures. Consumers around the world are protesting the policies of their governments, from dairy farmers in the Netherlands and truckers in Canada to uprisings in Sri Lanka and protests about headscarf wearing by women in Iran. After the US Supreme Court made its decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling prohibiting restrictions on abortion, public trust in the organisation fell to a historic low, with only 25% of Americans expressing confidence in it (source: Gallup)

Some engage in what they see as justified rule breaking. During the pandemic, many governments limited the freedom of their citizens to an unprecedented degree, and while most people did comply, our data finds that a significant minority of consumers in GB and the US chose not to follow some COVID-19 guidelines. This may have helped open the door to citizens to question and act out against more of their government’s policies in other areas.

Against this backdrop, some companies are helping consumers to circumvent or change laws that they feel are unjust. For instance, Bank of America, CVS Health and Kroger pledged to cover travel costs for their employees who need to leave their home state for an abortion. Consumers and brands alike are also pushing boundaries when it comes to topics such as drug use. Meanwhile, the proliferation of products containing CBD have revolutionised attitudes towards cannabis around the world, which is even beginning to impact rules and regulations; multiple US states voted in the midterm elections on 8 November to legalize personal use of marijuana.

How to activate Moveable Morality:

  • Show you are a brand that is willing to stand up for causes that may go against the established order. While adherence to laws and rules has always been a fundamental basis for consumer trust in a brand or company, this may be changing, or at least is more qualified. Don’t be afraid to state your principles clearly; go beyond slacktivism or purpose-washing to show that you are willing to put your principles before profit or mainstream acceptance – or, in some special cases, the law as it stands.
  • Campaign to have rules and laws changed where needs be. In areas where laws are changing due to technological innovation or they vary dramatically around the world, such as drug use for health and wellbeing treatments, brands can lobby authorities and support activist citizens in their fight for what they believe is morally right.
  • Reinforce and support the importance of campaigning journalism. High-profile media campaigns and reporting exposés throughout history have challenged authority figures or even broken existing laws to stand up for truth and justice. These have included campaigns to have certain drugs decriminalised, and to push for legal rights for oppressed minority groups. In an environment where traditional news brands have struggled to compete with social media for mindshare, support for such campaigning journalism will help set them apart and show consumers what causes your brand truly believes in.

    Moveable Morality is one of four new trends launched in our Trending 2023 report. Download a preview version now for a sneak peek at more trends.


Written by David Crosbie

David has worked in the field of consumer trends and futuring for over a decade. He has helped clients in a wide variety of sectors – from food and drink and other FMCG to financial services and more – to plan effectively and create successful future strategies that are firmly embedded in consumer understanding.

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