Forget what you know about traditional brand positioning – a six-market study recently released from WE Communications debunks the notion, and puts forward four realities for brands to operate more effectively in an ever-changing environment.
All brands are in motion relative to their geography, the industry they are a part of and the stakeholders critical to their success.
Add to that the disruptive, and often dislocative powers of technology, which is upending entire business models, continuing to challenge our status quo and creating new opportunities for brands and consumers that have never been imagined.
We have created a monster of exponentially higher consumer expectations that puts enormous pressure on brands and can never be satisfied. So what’s a brand to do? Embracing the following four realities will help.
Reality 1: Stability is an element of motion
We live in uncertain times – things around us are rapidly changing and people are having to adapt quickly. Consumers see an opportunity for brands to provide much needed stability. Regardless of what market you are operating in, there’s not only an opportunity, but an expectation for a brand to make sense of this chaotic world for its customers.
This is true across Australia, China, Germany, the UK, the US and South Africa with over 80% of consumers surveyed saying they see this as an opportunity for brands. Highest results were in the emerging markets of China and South Africa with over 90% of respondents seeing it as the role of a brand to provide stability.
Reality 2: Cutting-edge is transcendent
WE’s study found a high correlation between brands that are seen as cutting edge and brands that are loved, have a positive social impact and provide an enjoyable experience.
This strongly suggests that being cutting edge – whether technology enabled or inspired by it – leads to positive brand outcomes in areas that transcend product.
Brands that can leverage innovation and that consumers see as cutting edge within the brand's overall story and message, experience a lift in other areas of their business.
Reality 3: The Unilever effect
A staggering 63% of people across all markets surveyed said they expect brands to deliver both functionality and purpose in some form.
WE calls this The Unilever Effect and points to the work Paul Polman has spearheaded as CEO to bring business objectives into alignment with core values the company wanted to follow to have a more positive impact on society.
It’s paid off for Unilever, and the research suggests that more and more consumers are looking for more brands to follow suit. Yes a company must continue to have great product, but consumers expect purpose to play a role as well.
Reality 4: Love you today, shame you tomorrow
Is brand loyalty a thing of the past? WE’s research suggests that might be the case, or that it’s harder to hang onto than ever before.
In 40 test scenarios, when asked if people loved or hated the industry, 54% said they loved it. Yet when asked if they would defend a brand within that industry during times of crisis, only 2% said they would, leaving 98% of the respondents saying they would publicly shame it.
Brands must stay hyper vigilant to the changing expectations of their consumers and work to build love and advocacy for what they are doing. They must also be prepared to respond effectively to anything that might put a wedge between the brand and the relationship with their customer.
PRWeek and WE Communications hosted a panel session with leading brand marketers to reveal how WE’s new metric of brand performance – advocating ‘brands in motion’ in place of brand positioning – works in practice.