NEW YORK: Three-quarters of consumers (74%) around the globe expect brands to take a stand on important issues, up 4% from last year, according to WE Communications’ Brands in Motion 2018 study.
"Customers aren’t just saying it is nice to run your company well and take a stand and I understand what you care about; it is a must have," said Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO of WE Communications. "Consumers are speaking out. It will continue to be on the rise. We will find a rise next year, too."
Nike and Levi Strauss & Co. are among the latest brands to take a stand on divisive social issues, placing Colin Kaepernick at the center of a key campaign and supporting gun-control measures, respectively.
The study also found that consumers’ need for functionality is outpacing their desire to feel emotionally connected to a brand. From 2017 to 2018, average global "brand motion" scores were up 16% for rational drivers and 14% for emotional drivers.
"[Consumers] are not just going to buy things to make themselves feel good; they are going to first look for functionality," said Waggener Zorkin. "Once they have that, they are going to look for ethics and responsibility. They are looking for proof over product."
WE partnered with YouGov to field the second iteration of its Brands in Motion survey among more than 25,000 consumers and B2B decision-makers in eight global markets: Australia, China, Germany, India, Singapore, South Africa, the U.K, and the U.S. It looked at eight categories and 90 brands in July and August.
The study also found that consumers have high expectations for brands using technology to drive innovation, with 50% of respondents saying they believe tech will either help to do more things in less time or create greater sustainability. However, nearly all respondents (97%) said they place responsibility squarely on brands to use technology ethically while developing customer-centric innovation.
Respondents also indicated they’ve been shaken by data-misuse scandals and are anxious about the promises of unprecedented innovation. Eighty-four percent said they fear their personal data is not secure; 67% dread being a pedestrian in a world of self-driving cars; and 54% worry AI will take their jobs away. Ninety-four percent said that if brands can’t use technology ethically, governments should take action.
"It’s an interesting dichotomy of ‘we want you to innovate, we want you to match a need, but you need to do this ethically and responsibly and protect my data,’" said Waggener Zorkin.