Editor’s note: Robert Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys, a New York-based research firm.

Political polarization, voter tribalism and fervent social movements such as #grabyourwallet and #MeToo, have changed the face of everything. News reporting, midterm election planning, family dynamics, market planning, research, engagement and loyalty are changing in every commercial sector this year. 

The 2018 Brand Keys annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index identified new consumer values that have combined to create unprecedented value shifts. And those shifts have dramatically affected the path-to-purchase for brands and the research that identifies the routes those paths will take. 

This is especially true when it comes to values that define how consumers view categories; compare brands and category options; and how they ultimately buy, buy again and remain loyal. Brands need to conduct quality path-to-purchase research to have the information necessary to attract loyal customers. 

As brands become more political, marketing research is turning into a more complex process – as if it wasn’t already difficult enough with researchers dealing with:

That last point is perhaps the most problematic. 

It is all well and good for brands to want to be good citizens. Normally it has taken the form of corporate social responsibility with the hope that a public acknowledgment of responsibility for social and environmental will positively impact business operations. Generally this did not include politics. Political values have – up till recently – played no part in how consumers defined sectors and brands. 

Researchers should expect value shifts on a regular basis but 2018 has revealed shifts on a scale that research hasn’t had to deal with in decades. The injection of tribal political and activist social values into today’s marketplace has transformed the brand space – and market...