Are consumers falling out of love with brands?
A new cultural trends study from WPP media shop Mindshare suggests that may be the case, despite all the new ways technology is enabling brands to connect with consumers.
In fact, the study suggests that technology could be a part of the problem. It concludes that consumers are finding technology to be a double-edged sword. While they’re infatuated with devices and social media on one hand, on the other, all the connectedness can be overwhelming for people, with 58% saying it makes the world “more complex” and perhaps not so easy to navigate.
In the latest so-called “Culture Vulture” report from the agency, less than half (47%) of respondents agreed that “When I see or hear something interesting about a brand I like to pass it on.” That’s down from the 66% of consumers who agreed with that statement four years ago.
Also, significantly more consumers -- 65% of those who responded -- said they would now purchase a generic product that is on sale instead of the branded version of the product they normally use. That compares to 57% who felt that way prior to the recession.
“Our findings show that a majority of brands are seeing their relationships with consumers weakening,” said Mark Potts, managing director, Mindshare North America. “This is clearly a huge issue for marketers, as we know that in this technology and social media age, consumers should be connecting with their favorite brands and sharing them.”
Brands may need to do a rethink about “how they’re adapting to new consumer expectations in order to better connect to their emotions and behaviors,” said Potts.
How consumers respond to whatever changes in approach marketers make remains to be seen. But generally, they seem to be in a more positive frame of mind, per the study. It found that overall, despite coming out of a difficult recession, people feel more positive, relaxed, mentally healthy and happier than in previous years. For example, 59% of those surveyed said they felt like they had a good work/life balance, versus 53% who felt that way in 2010. The takeaway for brands is that they should tap into that rising positive consumer mind-set, per the study.
Plus, they should use all the new marketing tools at their disposal to accomplish that, says Potts. “In 2014, brands can rekindle their relationship with consumers by creating unique content and experiences tailored for their specific interests, lifestyles and behaviors, which are embedded in science and real-time responsiveness.”
I have a recommendation for brands if they want people to stop falling out of love with them: Act more responsibly and less greedily. Many of the reasons I fall out of love with a brand have nothing to do with the performance of products/services but how the company handles itself in the world. Being connected helps me learn that about brands, for better or for worse. All the goodwill a brand musters can be just as easily wiped out in an instant if someone finds out a dirty little secret about them.
Agree with Sara, we are morphing into a culture who cares about who is making our clothes, what they are putting into our food and the quality of product and services provided by the companies we buy from. Brands can no longer rest on their laurels. It's over. Brands need to connect, make their case and indulge in some serious CRM.
First, I disagree that social responsible business/marketing can turn the tide. Surveys have always shown that people say they care about companies acting responsibly, but they're unwilling to pay more for it. The trend has been an overwhelming majority who SAY they care for years, but a minority who are willing to put their wallet where their mouth is. That said, socially irresponsible companies will probably be penalized going forward because the web has made bad actors so much more visible. The bottom line is that technology has made consumers more pragmatic and considered and price-conscious about their purchases than ever before. On top of that, the quality of products has reached an exceedingly high level, such that it has gotten more difficult for brands to get a premium or build loyalty. As is well documented, the middle is being squeezed (brands, not segments of the population) and only the most efficient or the most exclusive will survive. This is somewhat of a simplification, but it's consistent with the erosion of brand loyalty. Brands aren't going to disappear, but they're going to matter to a lot less of of us than they use to, I think. And I don't think that trying to be my best friend or soliciting my Pinterest favorites is going to make me love them any more.