WE’s inaugural Brands in Motion study shows why brands need to leverage on disruption and make the dynamic leap from mere positioning to providing the stability their stakeholders seek.
For decades, the concept of brand positioning has been top priority for the marketing and advertising industry. But this is a static view of consumer perceptions, which now demands a dynamic, proactive and all-encompassing approach from brands.
So says Alan VanderMolen (left), President International & WE+. “We believe that traditional brand positioning assumes that markets, customers, investors, employees, etc, are in one place and, therefore, that positioning is focused on getting a brand to a fixed destination,” explains VanderMolen. “With brands, their markets and their stakeholders in motion, it is more relevant for brands to understand motion and to align the brand’s motion with the needs and desires of customers and markets with brands becoming enablers of progress.”
WE recently released their inaugural Brand in Motion study in South Afroca, which was conducted across China, the UK and the US to examine both the rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choices and decipher brand movement relative to the geography, industry and key stakeholders.
The comprehensive survey, a follow-up to their Stories in Motion study, uncovered four realities facing brands today, regardless of the industry or country they operate in. According to VanderMolen, these four critical realities that shape brand movement are stability, innovation, beneficial services and public perception.
- First, consumers crave stability and need brands to be a stabilising force in uncertain times. This presents an opportunity for brands to offer new value to their customers.
- Second, brands need to pay attention to how their customers perceive their levels of innovation. The higher the perceptions of innovation, the higher correlations to being seen as contributing to society and delivering great customer experience.
- Third, brands need to strike a balance between delivering highly-functional and beneficial products and services, and taking an active position on issues that provide long-term social value.
- Fourth, even if brands tick all the above boxes, some 98% of consumers would not think twice about publicly shaming them if they stepped out of line – no matter how loyal they are.
Essentially, he explains, today’s customers base their perceptions on what a brand does, more than what it offers: “Consumers overwhelmingly expect brands to provide high quality products and services priced for value while at the same time contributing to long-term sustainability of markets. So, brands must continue to innovate in and deliver on product and service expectations while doing that is a way that contributes to sustainable markets.”
Global giant Unilever is a great example of this, suggests VanderMolen, judging by the company’s response to the issue of drought in South Africa: “Unilever launched the multifaceted #SunlightSavesWater campaign that not only challenged South Africans to use less water but also set up water collection points, encouraging communities to collect and donate water for regions worse affected by the drought,” explains VanderMolen. “The educational drive as well as the impactful contribution of this campaign, makes it a perfect example of a brand transcending its product/ service offering and providing consumers with a sense of stability.”
South African and Chinese respondents, in particular, gave both brands and categories higher rational and emotional scores than other markets, and believe most strongly that brands can provide an element of stability during times of turbulence and change,notes adds VanderMolen. “We believe this gives business and brands very tangible opportunities to build relationships with customers that transcend product and go into experience and mutual benefit.”
Following on the study, which WE recently released in South Africa, the communications giant is developing a diagnostic tool, the Motion Matrix, to help brands measure and harness motion at these three levels. VanderMolen is due here this month to unpack the study and guide brands on how to “make sense of the changes and motion happening around them while innovatively contributing to sustainable markets”.