TRENDING: How to conjure magic for your consumers

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Consumers expect brands to play a key role in delivering a better future, by solving societal challenges – as well as adding magic to their lives!

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Once upon a time… a great sickness fell upon the land. Many were afflicted and the wise men and women of the healers’ guilds worked tirelessly to brew potions to minister to those who were ill. After several years, finally the pestilence was driven from the land and the people rejoiced and began to rebuild.

Except, it was no fairy tale. Recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic 2019-2022 has left many global economies in tatters. Consumer sentiment has been even more impacted, as a new trend report from Wunderman Thompson Intelligence found. The research examines how brands can “deliver on consumers’ yearning for re-enchantment, because people are shell-shocked after the past few years, with three-quarters saying they “just want to feel something, to feel alive”; and 74% who say they are waiting for “something good to happen”.

The Age Of Re-Enchantment report unpacks how brands can help people transcend tough times by creating emotion-inducing experiences that deliver feelings of joy, wonder, and even fear. As Wunderman Thompson Intelligence global director, Marie Stafford, recounts, “It’s time to remake the world through the lens of re-enchantment, where the new brand metrics are ‘jaw drops, heart swells, and goosebumps’. Whether numbed by pandemic isolation, burned out by grind culture, or shocked by the 21st-century horrors of politics, war, and climate crisis, people are feeling a sense of absence that is hard to neatly define.

Manufacture magical experiences

“Brands can help them transcend these tough times and jolt them from long-standing malaise by celebrating the thrilling, the uplifting, the awe-inspiring, and the magical. People have always enjoyed being transported but, crucially, there is now an appetite for brands to deliver this.”

In the global survey for Wunderman Thompson, this is why brands need to be more enchanting and charm their consumers with a more magical mindset:

  • 49% of people say they are likely to buy from brands that bring them a sense of joy.
  • 45% say they will buy from brands that surprise and delight them.
  • 26% will only buy from brands that just do what they say they will.
  • 70% of people, however, say they can’t remember the last time a brand did anything that excited them.

There is no doubt that the trauma of recent times has dented consumer confidence, created uncertainty, and dashed dreams. In a country like South Africa, which is facing additional pressures – from disastrous daily power cuts to rampant corruption, and an erosion of service and infrastructure delivery, it can create enormous stress. And a stressed consumer is not a cheerful consumer – and unhappy people are cautious consumers.

Brands no longer just need to provide a product or service, they need to care for the wellbeing of their consumers. Key findings from this quest, include:

  • 65% of people would like brands to wow them with spectacular advertising and marketing.
  • 61% want brands to help them feel intense emotions.
  • 68% prefer to spend time in places that spark their imagination.
  • 63% of consumers want companies and brands to provide them with multi-sensory experiences.
  • 89% believe having fun is a necessity as it keeps them going in tough times.

These are the key brand metrics that marketers need to act on if they want to keep consumers: reawaken joy, magic and wonder, creating a “full spectrum of feels”, as in “heart swells, spine tingles, jaw drops”. From sensory techtopias to darker pursuits to provoke passion, here’s the journey map you didn’t know you needed…

THE STORY: An epic quest: This latest trend report aims to make sense of the reawakening of consumer senses and the need to understand the confusion and uncertainty surrounding them.

THE JOURNEY: Be part of something bigger: This need to be part of something bigger speaks to the isolation during the pandemic lockdowns and the need now for meaningful connection and experiences.

THE END: Usher in a more hopeful future: No one wants to arrive empty handed. After going through this global trauma, with extra baggage as South Africans, it has to mean something in the end – the possibility of a kinder, more hopeful future. There are 18 trends overall identified by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence under the headings: Awakening, Transcending and Reimagining.

Top trend takeaways for brands

There are also 10 top trend takeaways for brands to bolster their consumers, from Wunderman Thompson:

1. Set emotional KPIs: “One of our major key performance indicators at Daybreaker is tears of joy,” says founder Radha Agrawal. In the age of re-enchantment, brand metrics will include human emotions: heart swells, goosebumps, jaw drops, spine tingles, and more. Measuring these customer outcomes alongside business metrics will be crucial, says Momo Estrella, head of design at IKEA China Digital Hub, as people calculate the value brands are adding to their emotional lives: “How much time are you helping me save? How much more are you teaching me? What do I know now because of you as a brand?”

2. Prioritise connection: “Rebuilding community is the fundamental social challenge of our era,” says psychology professor Dacher Keltner. Daybreaker’s founder and CEO Radha Agrawal agrees that “the biggest opportunity brands have is getting people to connect with each other.” Our data aligns with this: 85% of people feel estranged, saying it seems we have less time for one another these days. Brands have an opportunity to facilitate meaningful connection, carving out rich opportunities for community and offering rituals and spaces (both physical and virtual) that bring people together.

3. Enthral the senses: Multisensory stimulation is central to re-enchantment: 68% of people say they seek out experiences that stimulate the senses. This expectation holds whether IRL or not: 64% say they expect digital and virtual experiences to be multisensory too. While “the physical world still has an advantage” when it comes to “joy, wonder, and awe,” as Estrella tells us, the virtual world is fast building the capability to create sensory journeys. More than half of users of mixed reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality already say they find the experience more intense than reality, according to Wunderman Thompson data.

4. Promote full-spectrum emotion: Emotions are now a key component of wellness, in line with an increased awareness of the potential toxicity of the relentless quest for happiness. Darker feelings may be uncomfortable, but they offer an essential counterpoint as well as opportunities for learning. Brands can help people navigate their peaks and troughs of emotion by advocating for and acknowledging the full spectrum of emotion.

5. Stand up for fun: Fun is an easy win for many brands, but can often be dismissed as trivial. A powerful tool for wellbeing and resilience, it offers welcome respite in tough times. Fun also offers a triple win for brands, delivering pleasure not only in the moment but also in its anticipation and recollection. Brands can make a stand as advocates for leisure, championing playfulness and building moments of uplift and joy into the customer experience.

6. Escape the rational: Brands can offer a welcome respite from efficiency and predictability by building in moments of serendipity and the unexpected: 74% of our respondents say they enjoy an element of mystery and surprise in the things they do. Dark and fearful themes can be surprising in and of themselves, so long as they are authentic and consistent with brand values, while surreal and multiversal themes inspired by the digital world are trending in culture.

7. Go dark: Leaning into fearful themes can be a way for brands to cut through. While not a universally appealing territory, many people find darker themes thrilling: 32% of people enjoy feeling the rush that comes with being scared. For some, horror can also be a reaction, a tool to call out disenchantment with the status quo. It can even be cathartic and comforting. As experts Coltan Scrivner, behavioural scientist at Denmark’s Recreational Fear Lab in Aarhus University, and Claire Catterall, senior curator at Somerset House, explain, recreational fear can offer a safe space to process anxiety.

8. Be a transcendent brand: Artist Jason Silva calls it “the deep now,” and it’s also known as “flow,” “the mystery,” or “transcendence.” Those moments where our focus moves away from the self, and we feel connected to something bigger, are said to be transformational and powerful for our wellbeing. Late in his career, American psychologist Abraham Maslow even put self-transcendence at the peak of his hierarchy of needs. Brands can nurture transcendence via experiences that shift the lens away from the self, transporting audiences and encouraging a prosocial outlook.

9. Awe, quick and slow: Not every experience of re-enchantment needs to be a jaw-dropping affair. As psychology professor Kenneth Carter explains, “You don’t have to be a thrill-seeker to be an awe or sensation seeker. It’s those everyday sensations that make the world beautiful.” Psychologist Kirk Schneider also makes a distinction between “quick-boil awe,” which is brief, dramatic, and in the moment, and the “slow simmer,” which is linked to a longer-term commitment to conscious reflection and introspection.

10. Strive for better: Re-enchantment, at its root, is a yearning for a better life. Just 25% are positive about the way things are going in the world, and 71% would like a little more hope in their lives. As previous WT research has confirmed, people expect brands to play a key role in delivering a better future, by solving societal challenges. By centring key values around caring for planet and people, brands can foster some much-needed optimism.

STUDY: The age of re-enchantment unpacks emerging consumer trends and shares key implications for brands and businesses. It builds on original research conducted with SONAR, Wunderman Thompson’s research consultancy, in China, the UK and the US, exclusive interviews with 20 experts, qualitative studies with generation Z consumers from 17 countries, and more than 100 case studies. Download a complimentary copy of “The age of re-enchantment” report to find out how brands can reflect this new consumer mindset and help to re-enchant the world.


Louise Burgers is the Publisher, Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She also lectures post-grad students in Marketing and Advertising Communications at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business; and works with the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in the Africa region on editorial strategy. Specialising in local and Africa consumer trends, Louise is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger this decade.

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