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Understanding people’s ‘New World’ brand expectations

By Richard Barrett



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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January 9, 2020 | 4 min read

If you work in marketing, you might want to look away now. The brutal truth is… the vast majority of people don’t care about your brand. In fact, 81% of the brands sold across Europe could disappear overnight and consumers wouldn’t be concerned... They probably wouldn’t even notice.

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Various dynamics are at play here. Firstly, abundance. With up to 30,000 new products being launched every year, we’re all spoilt for choice. With so much variety on offer, very few brands feel truly indispensable. Secondly, unbrands. We’re increasingly exposed to no name brands from the likes of Amazon, Aldi and Lidl. When these perform well, it undercuts the perceived value of traditional brands. Finally, loss of trust. It doesn’t take many rotten apples to spoil the brand barrel and there have been lots of examples recently of world-famous brands apparently acting in bad faith.

These are all significant, but there’s one factor that’s even more important. People’s expectations of brands have risen faster than brands’ ability to meet those expectations. It’s an important issue, one we first touched on in our previous MarTech focused article on why marketing technology needs to be brand-led and how to achieve it.

This expectation gap can’t be ignored. And the first step towards tackling it is understanding what people want from ‘new world’ brands.

  • CLARITY OF PURPOSE. This isn’t necessarily about ‘doing good’ for society. It’s more about any brand being crystal clear on the role it wants to play in people’s lives.
  • TRANSPARENCY. People demand that brands be authentic and consistent in their behaviour. When they ask questions, they want the brand to respond quickly and honestly.
  • ACTIVE CONTRIBUTION. Increasingly, people want brands to help them do or experience more. They expect brands to go beyond providing mere product utility.
  • PERMANENCE. Thanks to social media, people are ‘always on’ and they want the same from brands. They’re looking for brands to be working 365 days a year, constantly feeding their social and cultural passions.
  • DEMONSTRABLY NATIVE. People are highly attuned to the codes and customs of individual media channels. For brands to be welcomed in these spaces, they must act in a way that is perfectly tailored to the environment.
  • EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES. It’s never been truer that the customer is always right. Consumers drive the agenda and they expect brands to deliver excellence however and whenever they engage.
  • CONTEXTUAL RELEVANCE. ‘Good enough’ isn’t good enough. People want brands to provide solutions that specifically resolve their needs in the moment.
  • APPROPRIATE PERSONALISATION. People don’t see themselves as part of the crowd and they don’t want to be treated as such, especially if they’re current customers. If it’s dangerous for brands to be overly familiar, it’s even more dangerous when they appear blind to existing relationships.

Meeting these expectations consistently is an extraordinarily high bar, one that will require technology to reach it. Not tech just for the sake of it, but solutions specifically designed to meet one or more of the expectations outlined above. One single imperative should drive every decision: will this help me provide better answers to my customers’ needs?

In our next piece we’ll look at ways you can rise to this ‘new world’ brand challenge through the implementation of brand-led technology.

Richard Barrett, managing director at Initials.


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