A rising sense of disempowerment

The growth of a feeling of lack of control over one's life. 

Of all the trends we are witnessing this year, this one is certainly the most striking – a growing impression that external forces are working against us, leading to a feeling that we are losing control over our lives.

We have discussed this trend many times in recent years, but it continues to impact more and more people across the country, affecting more than one in two Canadians in 2022.


As one would expect, recent events have exacerbated this already escalating trend: inflation, rising interest rates, the pandemic, the climate emergency, the housing crisis, war, etc.

These events have tended to heighten people’s sense of uncertainty and fuel their feeling of disempowerment. (The data was collected for our study on the values of Canadians from February 25 to April 11, 2022).

But clearly, the trend has been underway for many years.

For many, the societal changes are happening much too fast. The various aspects of their everyday lives seem to be in flux, leaving many people stunned in response. Which brings us to another theme that we have already discussed in the past, on which attitudes are continuously changing.

These two graphs clearly indicate the direction in which these mental postures have been going in recent years.


Apocalypse and cynicism

All these impressions of our current situation have resulted in an apocalyptic vision of our collective future. The view that our lives will be totally turned upside down within a few years continues to prevail. 

This view also fuels cynicism. Three out of five Canadians (59%) no longer believe anyone from the upper echelons of society. Instead, they believe the elite are trying to dupe them! 

This cynicism is fed, in particular, by the impression that the elite are doing nothing to tackle society’s pressing problems; that the elite are, in fact, benefitting from them, or worse, creating them!

The extreme end of this cynicism is feeding all the conspiracy theories and populism increasingly rearing its ugly head in our socio-political spheres.

A loss of meaning

Another side effect of this feeling of disempowerment in a world in flux is the trouble many are having in finding meaning or purpose in their lives. 

One in three Canadians (34%) have admitted to us that their life has no purpose – a percentage rising to 44% among young people 18 to 34 years of age.

These data indicate a very serious situation. Faced with a society struggling to offer them some direction, more than two out of five young people are having trouble finding meaning or purpose in their lives. Could we be witnessing the sinking of a generation?

Finally, it should be noted that this trend has been moving continuously upward in recent years in a highly correlated way with the rise in the feeling of disempowerment.


Opportunities for brands and institutions despite everything

It is clear that a significant proportion of the population needs help, and this points to a renewed vocation for brands and institutions. 

Brands, especially, could expand their mission by offering experiences that would address their users’ need for meaning in their lives.


Obviously, brands can’t fix the widespread sense of disempowerment that consumers experience in their everyday lives. But brands can certainly give their users some control over the experience they have with their brand.

They can create apps that let people personalize and modify their user experience with the product or service (Fizz, Hardbacon and Fitbit are good examples).

Providing advice is also extremely important. It makes users feel more independent and confident. For example, what financial advisors offer responds perfectly to this need for empowerment by their clients   (you can read our capsule on financial advisors).

Offer hope, suggest projects and goals

Brands can also help get their users engaged in social, community or ecological causes. 

Such projects can give people a goal, a purpose, along with offering them a sense of control over specific issues. NRMA, an Australian insurance company, helped its customers, and the public at large, save and restore sustainable habitats for koalas after the massive forest fires of 2021.

Connect people and communities

Initiatives such as these could also facilitate the sharing of user experiences and knowledge while connecting users with one other. 

Brands could also become an agora for their users, a virtual public square where users share their thoughts and simultaneously learn to become more independent, confident and engaged.

By addressing these needs, which go well beyond the mere use of their products or services, brands would inevitably see a rise in brand loyalty.

At the same time, brands would also be addressing the need for empowerment and meaning among their consumers and the public at large.