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Brand Management

Customer Expectations Rise With Brand Power

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Customer Expectations Rise With Brand Power

Famed Psychologist and Harvard Professor Dan Gilbert once said that, “human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” This idea is why, on Branding Strategy Insider, a number of writers continue to remind our readers that brands are never finished. One year, a brand may create entirely new categories, defining how to compete in a given space, and leading. The next year, that same brand may be responding to changing social trends, following customer preferences.

Every year, the team at WE Communications releases their Brands In Motion study, and it is one of my favorites. The study, in partnership with YouGov, seeks to” understand our world of motion — and how brands might harness that movement to navigate the complexities of disruption and dislocation, in pursuit of customer love.” With 25,000 respondents representing 8 unique geographies, the results are significant and worth paying attention to.

Think about the challenges brands are up against today. As the report summarizes, “Brands face a perfect storm. Consumers today have unprecedented levels of knowledge and choice at their fingertips, are sick of living in a polarized world and are demanding a revolution. They want their lives to be easier, they want their needs met, they want brands to use technology responsibly, they want less division and more unity, and they crave deeper connections — and they expect brands to deliver all of this now.”

Here are five top findings from the study:

1. In the three years (and 80,000 total responses) collected by the study, no customer expectation has decreased. People expect brands to deliver.

2. 74% expect brands to take a stand on important issues.

3. Consumers love tech, but 69% say change is happening too fast.

4. 92% would stop using a product or service if it was using consumer data unethically.

5. 91% thought that brands could be adding speakers, cameras and sensors to products to collect more data.

Acting on these insights will be important for brands to remain competitive and should not come as a surprise. We’ve watched a trend developing over the past several years where, as the world seems to spin more out of control, especially geopolitically with the U.K.’s Boris Johnson looking like he’s out and impeachment proceedings likely to begin for Donald Trump, more and more people are looking to brands to provide leadership, take action, and “step up” in areas where it is clear the system is not working.

Expectations Have Become Requirements

It will be important for brands to find their purpose, beyond making money. Remember that customers are looking for stability and leadership because it’s not being provided where it’s typically found – with our leaders. This doesn’t mean to purpose-wash and infuse it into all of your brand communications. It means acknowledging that there is something unique about who you are and what you offer that attracts people that want to work for you, and people who want to buy from you. There are a million different ways to act on this, and I guarantee the most impactful of these will be smaller, local, and not be the hook for your latest ad. But they will have an impact, and some customers will see.

Brands will need to respect customers more. It’s never been easier to change products, so while making great products that customers love is the point of entry, customers expect to be taken better care of. Customer service needs to be treated as a marketing function, and every interaction is a chance to develop new brand advocates. It is maddening to get emails from brands saying “We value your feedback” when a Qualtrics survey is the only allowed mechanism to do so.

People want brands to weigh in on important issues, tying local programs to global impact. This means doing before saying. And it is perfectly OK to start with your employees. Providing ways for your workers to upskill or adding unique benefits can demonstrate even more authenticity than setting up “day of caring” volunteer opportunities. If a brand can’t get its own house in order, how should anyone expect it to change the world.

Some brands provide excellent examples of these action items brought to life.

  • The Female Company in Germany sparked a nationwide conversation about inequities in the tax code by packaging tampons inside of a book. In Germany, tampons and other menstrual products are taxed at 19% while books are taxed at 7%.
  • To get ahead of fears around data privacy and the growing use of artificial intelligence, Microsoft president Brad Smith has written and released a booked called Tools and Weapons and is on an international media tour that is helping to share the brand’s point of view. More brands need to look at what Microsoft is doing with their executive team that empowers them as brand champions.
  • Tesco launched their “Unforgettable Bag” in Malaysia, aiming to significantly reduce plastic bag consumption, which in Malaysia was 300 bags per person per year.

The Blake Project Can Help: Get actionable guidance from the experts on Brand Differentiation and Growth strategy.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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