South African consumers, along with their global counterparts, have overwhelmingly high expectations that brands will exercise ethics and responsibility when using technology, according to this year’s WE Communications Brands in Motion 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.
What’s driving this unifying call for responsible and ethical innovation? “Let’s start with Liberty’s cyber-attack and security breach, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, add in YouTube and Google’s struggles with content moderation, sprinkle in a dash of GDPR, and top it off with the competing promise and fear attached to technologies like AI, blockchain and autonomous vehicles. You end up with lightning-speed innovation on one side, thoughtful ethics and regulation on the other, and brands caught somewhere in the middle, keeping the peace,“ said Sarah Gooding, deputy GM at WE South Africa.
Gooding added that the enormous paradigm shifts taking place in the South African socio-political environment and the knock-on effects to the rand, as well as widespread reports of unethical business practices by previously highly respected consultancies and companies operating in South Africa such as Steinhoff, McKinsey, SAP and KPMG, have radically transformed the playing field.
“It is against this backdrop that consumers are increasingly looking for brands to provide them with stability,” she said.
The Brands in Motion 2018 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.
Across the board, consumers indicated they continue to have high expectations for brands to use technology to drive innovation: Nearly 50% of Brands in Motion 2018 global study respondents believed technology would either help do more things in less time, or create greater sustainability. However, this year’s study also exposed a new precondition to consumer expectations: 97% said they now placed responsibility squarely on brands to use technology ethically while continuing to drive customer-centric innovation.
South African Consumers demand ethically driven innovation
According to the study, 99% of South African respondents squarely placed responsibility on brands to use technology ethically while continuing to drive customer centred innovation.
“South African consumers are particularly demanding in their expectations for brands to continue driving innovation with technology: 68% of respondents thought that technology would allow brands and companies to do more amazing things in less time; 63% of South Africans expected technology to help brands be more sustainable (16% higher than the global average), while a substantial 72% of South Africans expect brands to deliver an online experience to assess products and services (compared to the global average of 52%),” said Gooding.
“Other BRICS countries surveyed in Brands in Motion responded with high expectations but low fears – South Africans buck the trend by being generally more fearful of how technology could disrupt their lives than the global average. Given recent data hacks, particularly the Liberty security breach, it’s unsurprising that 7% more South Africans than the global average fear their data being compromised online,” she added.
South Africa, along with other BRICS countries, India and China, saw high average rational and emotional driver scores, indicating more optimism toward brands and categories, stronger expectations around technology, and higher levels of fear about disruptive technologies than their UK, German, Australian and US counterparts.
South African consumers and the four realities of motion
Stability is an element of motion. The study claims that stability is an element of motion, and during uncertain times, there’s an opportunity for brands to step up and provide much-needed stability.
Sixty-five percent of South African consumers believe that brands have the capability to provide that stability and 87% agree with the statement, “I expect brands to take a stand on important issues”.
Cutting edge is transcendent. Being viewed as cutting edge – whether enabled by technology or inspired by it – leads to positive brand outcomes in areas that transcend product and South Africans strongly believe that this correlates with innovation.
Good product, good purpose. 52% of South African consumers seek a brand that balances product functionality with purpose.
Love you today, shame you tomorrow. No matter how much consumers say they love a brand or category, if they step out of line, consumers will gladly shame them. South African consumers love brands in the automotive, computing devices and health and wellness sectors, but hate finance and banking brands.
The Motion Matrix
WE Communications 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.
The Brands in Motion study presented brands with the following recommendations to capitalise on their marketing and communications dialogue with their stakeholders:
Understand your ideal placement on the Motion Matrix Not every brand needs to be a mover. Many are most successful as providers, agitators or defenders The key is to understand where your customers and competitors are moving and how you want to move.
Understand how you compare to your category Are your emotional or rational scores significantly below your category or competitors, or significantly higher? Mapping this against your share and sales data provides your brand with a motion map.
Choose a balance in terms of function and purpose Understand your mix of product- and service-related communications and communications around CSR and other purpose-related areas Functionality brings your customers in the door; high standards of behaviour and purpose keep them there
Using technology to meet and exceed customer demands is imperative Consumers want unfettered innovation and a thoughtful, ethical approach to that innovation. Your brand must find a balance.
Bettina Moss is an inspirational writer, motivational speaker, GlowCoach, intuitive counsellor, mentor and presenter in the field of personal growth and development. She founded GloWoman in 2010.