Skip to content

Struggling Canadians want decisive leadership from businesses and brands

Based on new research, Leo Burnett Canada describes how companies can take a leading role in addressing the concerns that keep Canadians awake at night.

It’s clear that we’re seeing a major shift in the Canadian psyche. People have been hit with inflation, a housing crisis, environmental disasters, global conflicts, and more.

These events have made them feel overwhelmed, frustrated, isolated from one another, and, in some cases, people are barely hanging on. But despite it all, or perhaps because of it, Canadians aren’t giving up.

That spirit is reflected in The HumanKind Study 2024. Recently published by Leo Burnett in partnership with Maru/Blu, it’s the third annual report on the main issues, concerns, and problems impacting the lives of Canadians.

To delve deeper into these key themes, Leo Burnett recently hosted “The Humankind 2024 Distilled Event”, which was attended by an audience of advertisers and other major decision makers.

Highlights included a panel of marketing experts featuring Devorah Lithwick, Chief Brand Officer, Bell; Daniel Maynen, Chief Marketing Officer, Pizza Hut; Eva Salem, SVP Marketing & Brand, Canadian Tire; and Tyrrell Schmidt, Global Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank.

“Distilled” drilled down into some of the key themes and action points highlighted in the HumanKind research. Four of which should be of particular interest to businesses and marketers.

1. Loneliness and division is on the rise. Canadians are feeling lonelier despite being “back to normal” in the post-pandemic era. Most report experiencing loneliness at least sometimes (57%), and one in four say they feel lonely frequently or always. This sentiment is starkly highest among Generation Z and Millennials (77% and 72%).

And 61% perceive that escalating divisions within Canada (+9 point versus the 2023 findings) are blocking people from social connection or coming together to solve issues.

Potential Actions: Companies can play an active role in creating communities, spaces and experiences to foster connection.

2. Cost of living survival mode. People are experiencing palpable anxiety with widespread concerns about economic stability – and it’s spreading across almost all aspects of their lives, such as their performance at work.

Canadians remain anxious about the economy. More than a third (34%) say they’re financially hanging on by the skin of their teeth (61% of Gen Z). More than three-quarters (77%) believe even hard-working Canadians can’t afford rent or food, no matter how hard they try.

Nearly half of all Canadians (47%, and 60% of Gen Z), are spending so much on essential items that they have very little left to spend on things and experiences that bring them joy. And a high percentage, including 45% of Gen Z and 44% of Millennials, believe they might have to move away from their loved ones to save money.

Potential Actions: Above all, Canadians don’t want to feel alone in their fight. Anything that companies can do to reassure and connect with their customers will be welcomed.

3. AI concerns abound. There is mistrust and concern around the use of AI despite its promise. If Canadians must use it, they want value in return.

Canadians are highly cautious of AI. More than half (51%) believe AI will hurt humanity more than it will help, while 44% expressed concern that AI exhibits bias that particularly affects marginalized populations.

While people are having fun playing with new tools like DALL-E, 64% worry AI is progressing too quickly without enough care for the risks, and 65% of young Canadians say corporations are going to use AI to exploit and manipulate people. Overall, almost three quarters (72%) say social media has become a wasteland of misinformation.

Potential Actions: Despite strong reservations, Canadians believe companies have a role to play – they’re willing to engage with AI applications from brands. But, in exchange, they want to see clear personal benefit such as a better user experience, a lower price or faster, more accurate service.

4. We’re not climate-doomed yet. While climate change has never felt more real – on our doorsteps last year with wildfires, floods and beyond – Canadians are emerging from despair. They aren’t ready to give up.

In a major shift from last year’s research, only 38% are concerned the Earth is past saving (versus  61%). A sign that more are perhaps willing to dig in and act. And more than half (53%) are feeling more content than a year ago, up 7 points.

Gen Z and Millennials are more than twice as likely to feel guilty about non-environmentally friendly purchase than boomers (41% versus 19%). They want to make a bigger impact but can’t, for reasons like price premiums or availability of sustainable choices

Potential Actions: More than two-thirds (67%) think companies are more focused on performative acts (such as greenwashing) than making real changes to help the environment. But they’re looking for real leadership and frustrated with inaction on this front.

Companies that are aware of these concerns can take a leading role in either providing a solution – large or small – and showing understanding for what’s keeping Canadians up at night. After all, what helps people, helps business.

Visit to download the full 2024 Leo Burnett Canada HumanKind study for more insights.

Leo Burnett is a member of the Institute of Canadian Agencies. Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

Marketing Insights

See all Ideas & Insights
Sign up to
stay in touch!
Get the latest updates in our bi-weekly newsletter.
First name
Last name
We will not share your details with any 3rd party.
Thank you,
...almost done.
You will receive an email
from us shortly.

Please click on the verification link in the email to complete the signup process.
We and our partners collect and use your information to enable essential site function, personalize content and ads, provide you with special offers, conduct analysis and other purposes. Cookies and similar technologies may be used. By continuing to browse this site, you agree to this processing. Learn more about our practices and your choices here.
Sign up to stay in touch!
Get the latest Globe Media Group updates in your inbox.
First name
Last name
We will not share your details with any 3rd party.
Thank you,... almost done!
You will receive an email from us shortly.

Please click on the verification link in the email to complete the signup process.
.pf-footer{ margin-top: 100px !important; background-color: #485157 !important; width:100% !important; padding: 15px 0px !important; } .pf-footer p { text-align: center !important; width: 100% !important; color: #fff !important; } img#pf-header-img { width: 100% !important; margin-bottom: 50px !important; } .pf-footer.print-footer a { color: #fff !important; } h1#pf-title { padding: 15px; } div#pf-src { padding: 15px; } div#pf-content { padding: 0px 15px; }