What Brand Edge have observed in 2018…
It’s been a busy year and we’ve completed a record number of projects for a diverse range of clients! Reviewing all the insight projects that we’ve completed in 2018, there are clearly 5 big themes that transcend market sectors and target audiences…
1: Get more comfortable with cynicism and conflict
What’s struck us this year is how comfy and “nice” a lot of research is… purist researchers talking to blandly constructed samples and using passive techniques and content. We even thought we were going to have to book a researcher we worked with into therapy because a respondent dared to get into a heated debate with him about a brand’s ethics!
We’ve noticed a whole load of cynicism and a context of diminishing trust across loads of projects. In a recent piece of work we did for a major utility, we found people pouring scorn on the idea of regulators and watchdogs being even handed but then placing blind faith in figureheads with a more independent take on things… if only Richard Attenborough could be cloned!
These mindsets make breaking through and connecting with these audiences more difficult, but it also creates some real opportunities for good, creative researchers. We’re developing cutting edge techniques specifically to engage cynical respondents and we’re encouraging clients to include rejectors (people who quite literally loathe the brand) in research rather than giving themselves a false sense of security by talking only to people who love it or, worse still, people who don’t have an opinion.
And we’re encouraging clients to embrace more creative sample designs and more provocative approaches. We often pit respecters and rejecters against each other in groups… it delivers way more insight and makes for much more interesting viewing. We run debriefs as activation style workshops rather than “presentations” and these approaches mean we don’t struggle for stimulating content
2: Reappraise your views on value
Brand Edge have managed around half a dozen segmentation projects across really diverse categories in 2018. We built these around attitudinal drivers rather than behavioural or circumstantial. Across and within segments we obviously found people who were forced to hunt down low price options out of necessity.
But, what was arguably more interesting (and a greater source of potential growth for brands) is the consistent presence of a “deal seeking” mindset… These people see value as a hobby, even sport and develop shopper strategies designed to help them win. They’ll rarely pay full price for anything and they bristle at the thought of being labelled as budget shoppers…
They get huge emotional pleasure from “winning” and are incredibly skilled and resourceful at seeking out advantage. But whilst brands like TX Maxx and Dunelm have structured their retail and product approaches around this mindset, few brands are finding interesting ways to engage and activate around the mindset, instead relying on pretty tired price promotion platforms.
3: Be single minded about your brand’s centre of gravity
OK, perhaps this isn’t an original subject matter but it’s important nonetheless. We’ve used just about every brand model going – some good, some not so good but few work for every brand in every situation. Brand Edge get, and love, the Simon Sinek “why” model, but you try getting a load of bus drivers to get engaged in a conversation about how they’re going to make the world a better place
We’ve found that slavishly adhering to approaches like this can restrict brands and they end up so tied in knots that the brands loses its essence rather than putting it at the heart of everything. We’re encouraging clients to develop a narrative around the notion of a brand’s centre of gravity. And mandating that they spell it out for consumers who neither have the time nor inclination to work too hard at this stuff. It needs to be true, simple and reflect a meeting of minds between brand capability and consumer need. For us, it’s as simple as finding the sweet spot that sits at the centre of 3 drivers.
- What makes your brand different to any other brand out there?
- Where’s the new news in the product or service you’re selling?
- What problem are you solving / need are you meeting for your customer?
4: Look at loyalty in a new light
We saw some headlines late in 2018 about the fact that “loyal” customers are being taken advantage of by businesses. Whilst the commentators have a point, and there’s no doubt an injustice to address, throwing cash at it feels to us like the wrong thing to do.
Sure, there are those vociferous consumers who think that cash is the only way to hold companies to account. But actually we’re seeing more and more evidence of consumers wanting emotional rewards and recognition, rather than financial recompense
Brand Edge have found that businesses that are a little more thoughtful in their approach to loyalty are winning and that, even when things go wrong, a “gesture” from the heart of the business is more powerful than a cheque from the accounts department
Brands with big hearts will win out over the ones with deep pockets and looking for ways to activate the emotional space in the pursuit of creating deeper relationships is way more interesting than chucking money at people and creating fleeting transactional moments
5: Rethink responsibility
Brand Edge have completed a couple of pieces of work this year for businesses wanting to beef up the CSR side of things by behaving (or being seen to behave) responsibly.
And sure, there are those people out there who are really engaged about “big world” responsibility (planet interests). But there are way more who think businesses are, first and foremost, responsible for delivering a reliable product / service (personal interests) – in fact we’ve seen segments actively rail against businesses banging the ethical drum whilst failing to meet “my world” needs
No-one would argue against a business having a great CSR commitment and doing the right things for the planet, but it’s simply not true that everyone is using this as a filter in decision making. Reasons to believe in a business and reasons to buy a brand need to be aligned to better effect – the corporate and customer teams need to be brought together and work together to turn this stuff into competitive advantage. Brand Edge clients have significantly benefitted from cross-discipline workshops in this space.
Brand Edge is a specialist insight agency. We work across most categories and have particular depth in beverages (soft drinks and alcoholic), hospitality, vets and pets, charities, utilities, homewares and automotive.