Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why you need to understand your new customers, the Changemakers

By Anna Lappenkueper, co-founder, The Akin

The Akin Changemaker Report 2020 reveals that influential consumers are demanding optimism, thoughtfulness and radical new thinking from brands.

2019 felt like a year of despondency. In 2020, we are at a critical inflexion point. As the world both collapses and reforms over the next year, brands, businesses, and institutions need to do the same: they must stay tuned in, be genuinely agile and ready to change with the people and so the world.

We have extensively explored 2,000 consumers across ten global markets in partnership with research agency Opinium. Our third annual report was written before the world went into lockdown in early March. The trends we have explored in this body of work have been rapidly adopted at mass due to Covid-19.

The 2020 Changemaker Report sets out what the world’s most influential consumers – the consumers demanding change from brands and organisations – are doing and feeling and what this means for technology, marketing, product development, retail, big data and trust across the next 18-24 months. It tracks their attitudes and behaviours, understanding the shifts and how these are morphing into new trends.

We can see that this group has a complicated world view. They are less tolerant of unhappiness and more likely to adopt new behaviours; they have a more complex relationship with technology, and they shop differently from the general public. They are attracted to brands (across beauty, fashion, finance, food and drink, entertainment and media, health and wellness, technology, travel and hospitality) that are thoughtful and optimistic.

Another substantial shift that we have tracked over the last three years is the shift from a desire to a need to question value – what gives value, where is the value, and what is the value to the environment? A fundamental truth about this audience is that they are walking contradictions. They morph radically and rapidly, ambi-culturally and idiosyncratically.

Lastly and most importantly, four clear trends are shaping Changemakers’ purchasing and lifestyle choices:


Changemakers are radically accepting that we must use our eco-anxiety to design a better future. 82% of Changemakers agree that the world should be aiming for regeneration, not just sustainability. There is a clear need to move beyond sustainability towards regeneration – with a shift from human-centred approaches to planet-centred design and thinking.


Changemakers are learning how to self-optimise through navigating algorithms and utilising their power over the data market. 80% of Changemakers would like algorithms to be more customisable. Changemakers want to move towards a balance of privacy and customisation, where personal data is no longer exchanged with no questions asked in return for convenient technological solutions.


Changemakers are looking for more radical new ways of thinking which take risks and challenge the status quo. 83% of Changemakers believe a system shakeup is crucial for our future. Changemakers are bored, want to be awed by something, and are giving brands the permission to challenge them. They want rebellious thinking to be used to challenge the status quo and the application of quantum thinking to change the increasingly limited and outdated mindsets produced by a rapidly changing world.


Changemakers are looking to level the playing field for all, shifting systems from exclusive to inclusive of tackling and healing divisions to find the common good and to find resilience. 79% of Changemakers think of themselves as citizens over consumers, shifting their hierarchy of needs from individual self-actualisation to a collective one.

It is clear from our research that nothing is guaranteed at this moment in time. The 2020 report demonstrates that it is time to make some hard decisions and really begin mapping out new needs and possible futures. Changemakers are the most positive about the future, and so this optimism should be harnessed by brands, organisations and C-suites to develop longer-term strategies, products and services.

We all have to remember, there is no normal to go back to.

On May 27th, we will be launching a special COVID-19 Changemaker report, for which we have studied Changemakers in the UK, US and China to see how the pandemic has affected their outlook on life, their needs and wants and what they are expecting from brands and businesses around the world.