CANNES, FRANCE -- Earning commitment from consumers requires honesty and trust from brands, but it also takes steady innovation and careful media planning, according to a study released Wednesday.
The 2016 Edelman Earned Brand study, which is focused on relationships between consumers and their favorite brands, analyzed whether a stronger relationship leads to better business results and how brands can build stronger ties.
While the findings reveal several insights, the most interesting involves the rate of innovation. A dizzying rate of innovation disturbs consumers, given the rapid pace at which features are built and released, according to Richard Edelman, president and CEO at Edelman.
"We've had an unbelievable amount of change in a short period of time," he said. "Brands need innovation, but do it in a way that doesn't freak people out."
Innovation bodes well with consumers -- but not an overabundance, which can cause consumers to become overwhelmed and look for other ways to reconnect with brands.
The brand study suggests that brands continually fall short when it comes to increasing the emotional and financial investment from their most loyal customers. Commitments require interaction and consumers can no longer be bought.
The Edelman Brand Relationship Index, conducted in 13 countries with 13,000 consumers, measured a global average score of 38 out of a possible 100. The Netherlands came in with the lowest score at just 30, with China gaining the highest at 53 for all 18 categories.
Edelman assigned three categories at random. It asked consumers to answer a series of questions to determine the strength of the relationship with their favorite brands.
The findings reveal that those consumers actually committed to a brand will drive and protect a brand’s bottom line by buying first, remaining loyal, advocating and defending that favorite brand. The study found that these stronger relationships provide significant benefits.
In fact, 77% will adopt innovation more quickly, 79% will pay a premium price for goods and services, 82% will recommend the brand through liking and sharing, and 80% will defend it against critics.
Keeping that high commitment from consumers requires that brands change the types of media they buy to build relationships. A high rate of commitment requires that consumers interact with the brand. The relationship requires a greater proportion of peer and owned media to deepen the relationship with consumers, per the study.
"The data shows that the eight-point advantage paid has over peer and owned in the earliest relationship stage shifts to an advantage for peer (+ 7 points) and owned (+ 8 points) over paid in the 'Committed' stage,'" per the study.
For brands to deepen relationships with consumers, they must address three behaviors that scored the lowest on the Brand Relationship Index: whether the brand acts with purpose, 33; tells a memorable story, 34; and listens openly and responds selectively, 35.
While 62% of respondents said they will not buy a brand if it fails to meet shared obligations, consumer belief in brands as their partners in social change is strong with 55% agreeing that brands can do more to solve social harm than the government.
Brands must answer consumers’ call by focusing on related strategies that require collaboration, participation, shared values and shared actions.