New Research Reveals Opening for Brands to Better Understand Human Behaviour

Canada Small Business

The first annual Leo Burnett HumanKind™ Study from the creative consultancy puts a spotlight on the personal, cultural and environmental anxieties facing Canadians, and lays a path forward to a more thoughtful era of brand strategy and marketing

The global sea change of the last two years has had an undeniable impact on all industries and the personal lives of Canadians, exposing a need to shift away from the status quo. The first annual HumanKind™ Study by Leo Burnett Canada reveals a path forward and identifies the personal, cultural and environmental concerns that have kept Canadians on unsure footing. The insights in this inaugural study from the creative consultancy present an opportunity to better the relationship between people and brands in 2022 and drive deeper understanding for corporations of human behaviour and the role it can play in driving commercial success.

“The things that keep Canadians up a night, keep us up at night too,” said Ben Tarr, President, Leo Burnett Canada. “It’s within these problems identified in the first annual HumanKind™ Study that brands can play a meaningful role, and we’ve set out to understand those issues. It has long been our belief that creativity has the power to transform human behaviour and we are on a mission to help brands deepen their connection with consumers through more than just traditional communications. In the wake of an unpredictable, unstable two years, the mindset of today’s consumer has changed. The brands that will break through are the ones that recognize the problems facing Canadians in this new landscape.”

To put this research into action, Leo Burnett is excited to develop a new creative product that can address these human problems and provide brands with a roadmap to solve them through boundary-pushing creativity that touches everything from products and service to customer experience and advertising.

The HumanKind™ Study lays bare eight themes related to the “Human Problems” pulled from the research within personal, cultural and environmental areas of concern. With each theme, Leo Burnett has identified three key “opportunities at hand for brands” as starting points to solve those problems for the consumer. From prioritizing marginalized people and adopting equitable pricing models, to boosting transparency measures and promoting healthier relationships with technology, the opportunities represent an inflection point for brands to step up and fill the voids left by the unprecedented cultural shifts related to climate change, changes in government, and the pandemic era.

The Personal

Canadians reported a wide range of personal anxieties and fears in the HumanKind™ Study, from financial and career concerns to mental health and parenting issues. Half of parents expressed concern that they weren’t involved enough in their children’s lives, while 39% said that they are coping with stress and anxiety in ways that may be detrimental to their overall well-being, which took a hit during the pandemic for as many as one-third of respondents. Those mental health concerns may be exacerbated by financial and career woes, as a majority of Canadians (80%) expressed financial unease, with women in particular (44%) expressing great concern that they may never feel “financially confident” again, and half of respondents concerned they are wasting their life doing unfulfilling work.

“These problems reveal a new way for brands to approach creativity, a way forward that focuses not solely on profit or product, but on people and how we can lead more fulfilling lives,” said Tahir Ahmad, Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett Canada. “We hope this study can serve as a wake-up call, not only to advertisers and brands, but to everyone, that we can’t rest on our laurels and that we can and should do better for each other and for our planet.”

“This is a period of real uncertainty and concern for people and the challenges they (all of us) are facing are having a significant impact on their quality of life. If there was ever a moment in time for brands to step up and into people’s lives in more impactful ways, this would be it” said Tahir Ahmad, Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett Canada. That 76% of Canadians don’t believe brands understand their problems is a stark reminder that as brand builders, we need to do more to alleviate the tensions, challenges and concerns Canadians are facing and in doing so, help them live happier more fulfilling lives.”

The Cultural

Beyond the environmental and personal, Canadians expressed a range of cultural concerns, many stemming from the consequences of an isolating pandemic era. Despite the well-trodden mantra that “we’re all in this together,” nearly half of Canadians (47%) said that they believe their communities are actually more divided than ever. The concerns extend to the future, with nearly 70% of respondents saying they fear we haven’t learned anything from the pandemic.

The Environmental

It’s no surprise that Canadians overwhelmingly identified the environment as a key concern, with the impact of climate change in the news more and more each year. In fact, 55% of Canadians expressed concern that the Earth is past the point of saving, a grim outlook that Leo recognizes as an opportunity for brands to contribute to a solution. As more companies come out with sweeping environmental measures, it’s also time for brand builders to think about how they can credibly provide solutions to the problems Canadians face.

As it relates to the environment, one of the key problems identified in the HumanKind™ Study is that Canadians have lost faith. Women in particular (62%) expressed concern that the environmental damage humans have caused may be irreversible. The study found that the key to making a difference in climate outlook may lie in information exchange. That’s why Leo Burnett believes that Canadians want brands to take action against and be transparent about their own successes and failures in climate change while providing opportunities for consumers to feel like they have made a difference through the brand experience itself.

With these concerns revealed and confirmed through the HumanKind™ Study, brands have a framework to move forward in a positive, helpful way in 2022 as much of the world continues the slow return to normal. The opportunity to provide solutions, outlined in the HumanKind™ Study, are plenty.

To learn more about the HumanKind™ Study and services provided by Leo Burnett, visit

About Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett Canada is a creative consultancy using strategy, design thinking, communications, and experience design to solve the modern age’s biggest business challenges. We believe creativity can transform human behavior. We use creativity in all forms to better the relationship between people and brands. A part of Leo Burnett Worldwide, we operate a global network of over 200 operating units and 96 full-service agencies in 85 countries and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe (

About the Leo Burnett HumanKind™ Study

The 2021 HumanKind™ Study is Leo Burnett Canada’s first annual report addressing the human problems facing Canadians and how brands can take action to start solving them. The research program, completed in three phases—a quantitative “problem exploration,” a qualitative “deep dive,” and a brand expectations baseline phase—was conducted by Maru Public Opinion and the online panel experts at Maru/Blue.

Between February and October 2021, 4,633 Canadians took part in the research. In phases 1 and 3, a series of 7-minute surveys were conducted with representative samples of 1,500 individuals. Weights were applied to ensure the sample reflects Census demographics, namely age, gender, region, education and, in Quebec, language. The margin of error for a comparable probability sample of 1,500 individuals is approximately +/-2.5.

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