WE Buchan today released results from WE Communications’ Brands in Motion 2018 global study. The data revealed that consumers worldwide continue to demand innovation — but now, in response to increasing technology-based fears, they’re attaching strong new stipulations to these expectations, chief among them the requirement that brands use technology ethically and responsibly.
“In just 12 months we’ve seen some interesting shifts in consumer brand perceptions,” said Gemma Hudson, Managing Director of WE Buchan. Despite 2018 providing Australians with many reasons to distrust technology, including media controversy stemming from the Notifiable Data Breach Scheme and introduction of the electronic health records, we continue to expect that brands will use technology to improve our lives. But this expectation is conditional, with nearly all Australians demanding greater accountability from brands.”
The study, conducted across eight global markets, examined both rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choices within today’s environment — to decipher brand movement relative to geography, industry and key stakeholders. Three key themes emerged:
Consumers hold brands accountable to use technology ethically
Across the board, consumers indicated they continue to have high expectations for brands to use technology to drive innovation: nearly 50 per cent of Brands in Motion 2018 Australian study respondents believe technology will either help do more things in less time or create greater sustainability (49%, 44%). However, this year’s study also exposed a new precondition to consumer expectations: 98 per cent said they now place responsibility squarely on brands to use technology ethically while continuing to drive customer-centric innovation.
Australian consumers have been shaken by recent technology scandals and are comparatively some of the most anxious consumers in the world about the promises of unprecedented innovation. Eighty-six percent fear their personal data is not secure, 94 per cent fear their family can be compromised online, 67 per cent dread being a pedestrian in a world of self-driving cards and 54 percent worry artificial intelligence will take their jobs away. In fact, 96 per cent said that if brands can’t use technology ethically, then governments should step in. Consumers are giving brands an ultimatum: Self-regulate or be regulated.
Movement on the matrix: consumers want brands to show, not tell
From 2017 to 2018, Australian scores of brand motion were up 19 percent for rational drivers and four percent for emotional drivers, showing that consumers’ need for reason is outpacing their need to feel emotionally connected to a brand. In short, consumers are insisting brands deliver proof over promise.
When mapping these changing perceptions using WE Buchan’s Brands in Motion diagnostic tool — the Motion Matrix — the study revealed a notable uptick across every market but one, indicating customer expectations continue to grow at an exponential rate and it’s harder for brands to wow and delight consumers both emotionally and rationally.
Categories were not immune to these shifts. Computing devices and tech B2B, which previously had the highest consumer admiration, have fallen slightly. Similarly, the impact of the Royal Commission is clear to see as finance and banking category has also fallen, entering the defender quadrant for the first time. Meanwhile in contrast, prescription health is ascendent, despite the fact that 70 per cent of respondents were afraid their medical records will be compromised.
Collectively the data signals that although the tech halo is strong, consumer anxiety over disruptive technologies and reactions to technology misuse may be stronger. These fears could continue to be a negative influence on tech-heavy categories unless they start to anticipate and get ahead of consumers’ ethical expectations.
Global environmental forces drive increasingly polarised perceptions of brands
With the prevailing societal backdrop of trade tensions, political unrest and technology angst, consumers are raising expectations for greater rationality and responsibility in their relationships with brands. Not only are people expecting more from brands than ever before, they are also more binary in their reactions to brands and categories.
The study found that in 2018, brands and categories are primarily clustered in two quadrants of the Motion Matrix — mover and defender — and the higher average scores mean it’s harder than last year to be a mover. This shift indicates that consumers around the globe are reserving their greatest love and appreciation for a smaller number of brands, and that they have strong convictions — one way or the other — about both sectors and brands. As a result, the issue of brand value has become very stark and polarised, making it harder for competitors of a beloved brand to draw their share of consumer affection.
“Consumer sentiment isn’t surprising if you look at the current global environment — from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, current struggles with content moderation and the GDPR, to the competing promise and apprehension attached to technologies like AI, blockchain and autonomous vehicles,” said Alan VanderMolen, WE’s president of international. “Brands have become the middle man, keeping the peace between lightning-speed innovation on one side and thoughtful ethics and regulation on the other. Consumers have now upped the ante and expect them to do more to drive stability in progress.”
“The Brands in Motion 2018 global survey data and corresponding insights present brands with an exciting opportunity,” said Gemma Hudson, Managing Director of WE Buchan. “By better understanding the shift in functional and emotional desires of consumers and the influential forces of motion, brands can pivot marketing and communications efforts to better reach their important stakeholders.”
About the Motion Matrix
WE developed a matrix to help brands understand and manage their motion against the larger environmental factors in play. The Motion Matrix maps the changing perceptions of industries and brands based on average emotional and rational motion driver scores, separating them into four quadrants:
- Providers have low emotional and high rational scores, making engagement largely transactional. Customers want these brands or categories, but don’t feel emotionally attached to them.
- Defenders are marked by both low emotional and low rational scores. Brands here are often on the precipice of change.
- Movers reflect both high emotional and high rational scores, indicating customers want and need these brands or category products and have high expectations around innovation.
- Agitators show high emotional and low rational scores, indicating that customers love these brands and categories, but may not see the long-lasting benefit.
About Brands in Motion
WE Communications partnered with YouGov to field the second iteration of its Brands in Motion survey among more than 25,000 consumers and B2B decision-makers across eight global markets: Australia, China, Germany, India, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States. It looked across eight categories and 90 brands, also capturing key demographic data. The industry categories included automotive, computing devices, finance and banking, food and beverage, health and wellness, prescription health, smart home, and tech B2B.
For more information visit https://buchanwe.com.au/points-of-view/brands-in-motion
About WE Buchan
WE Buchan is the Australian office of WE Communications. It is an award winning, multi-discipline public relations and communication agency. With a media landscape that is moving, pulsing and constantly evolving, brands must navigate everything from industry disruption and technology shifts to stakeholder mandates and political headwinds. In turn, brand stories have to move with new velocity and sync across every device and platform. This belief is what guides us, driving us to develop tailored communications solutions for our clients that tap into the zeitgeist and influence attitudes and behaviour. For more information about WE Buchan visit www.buchanwe.com.au