Gaining the trust and loyalty of modern consumers has become harder than ever. With the noise and distractions online and the uncertainties in consumer behaviour means traditional branding strategies are slowly becoming less powerful.
Building a brand now takes more effort compared to before. Initially, it focuses less on how a brand looks but more on how a brand acts and brand activism is becoming more prevalent. Many companies are also working towards authentic consumer experiences to meet demands. Finally, tech-driven campaigns that leverage both physical and digital platforms are now the norm.
All in all, we as brands have to go above and beyond to engage their target audience.
We would like to share with you some of our top priorities going forward and give some examples of real-world applications.
1. Brand Authenticity
Customer trust has hit an all-time low in the past couple of years. In the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, it was reported that only 34% of consumers trust brands they buy from. Creating an authentic brand image is critical for modern businesses (Edelman, 2019).
A Stackla report on consumer content revealed that 86% of shoppers view authenticity as a huge factor in purchasing decisions. Moreover, the same study also reported that 90% of millennials say authenticity is important in branding, preferring “real and organic” companies over those that are “perfect and packaged.”
This data goes to show that photoshopped ads, heavily edited commercials, and using picture-perfect models no longer have an allure to modern shoppers. They would much rather do business with companies that are honest with them.
A good example of this would be McDonald’s. Following controversies about their ingredients, it decided to publish a behind-the-scenes video of how they make their food in the hopes of evoking transparency. It also launched an “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign where they address popular queries about their company and post the information through webisodes. As a result, this campaign allowed the company to tackle misconceptions about its brand and curb negative rumours surrounding its food.
- Brand authenticity builds customer trust and consequently, improves brand reputation.
- Customers want honesty so be transparent about your operations.
2. Brand Inclusivity
Diversity, body positivity, and inclusivity are reshaping customer expectations. A survey by Accenture showed that 70% of millennials will choose inclusive and diverse brands over those that are not (Accenture, 2018).
The 2018 State of Branding reported that the majority (79%) of companies acknowledge the importance of addressing issues both social and cultural for their branding strategy. However, a good chunk of these businesses are also struggling to keep up with the demand (Bynder, 2018).
Personal care brand Dove, underwear company ThirdLove, and cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty are brands that have made it a point to ask real women to appear on their ads instead of hiring picture-perfect models. They have been launching ad campaigns that aim to shatter beauty stereotypes. This means featuring women of every age, ethnicity, shape, size, and gender orientation to empower their customers.
Other approaches could be to make your brand inclusive could be by economically inclusive by offering products at different price points. This allows you to tap customers from different walks of life. In the same way, you can be functionally inclusive by designing products that can be used by differently-abled individuals.
- Inclusion and diversity practices help brands improve their image.
- Creating inclusive ads as well as upholding policies that promote diversity makes your brand more welcoming.
3. Sustainable Branding Initiatives
Studies show that 88% of consumers believe companies can influence societal change (GSG). Brands should take the lead in addressing environmental issues by providing more sustainable products meeting the needs of shoppers who are more conscious about what they purchase. They make it a point to opt for more sustainable brands whenever they can. 23% of shoppers are now willing to pay an extra 1% to 5% for sustainable products (Statista, 2019). This is echoed by a recent joint study by IBM and the National Retail Federation where they found that 69% of North American consumers and 8 in 10 shoppers globally are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly products (IBM, 2020).
It follows that many brands are now implementing sustainable operational practices as well as ethical business processes. This way, they can meet the demands of green consumerism and gain the trust and loyalty of their customers.
Outdoor recreation company Fjallraven proactively finds ways to use less water and utilize recycled materials to manufacture their products. Patagonia is innovating to create sustainable apparel and outdoor gear. They even persuade customers to think before purchasing new items from their store as well as offers them an option to trade in their old gear for new ones.
- Promoting sustainability allows you to capture consumers who are trying to be more eco-friendly.
- Sustainable branding is associated with societal change. It has a big impact on boosting brand reputation.
4. Socially Responsible Branding – The Purposeful Brand
Consumers no longer see products as mere commodities—each one is now a statement. This is why purpose-driven brands have more appeal to modern shoppers. 71% of customers purchase from organizations that shared their cause (Consumer Culture Report, 2020). Brands must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for.
46% of all consumers say brands have better ideas for resolving problems than the government (Edelman, 2018). For example, American shoe and apparel brand Toms has one of the most effective social responsibility strategies to date. Some even say it is one of the companies that led the social impact movement.
Toms teamed up with several organizations and institutions to support multiple causes. It has campaigns to end gun violence, promote equality, and raise mental health awareness, among others. By letting customers choose which advocacy to support with each purchase they make, it attaches a sense of purpose to every sale and helps customers be part of something bigger than just their customer base.
The American company Mary Kay reached out to Native American communities during COVID-19 by donating part of its proceeds and the Allbirds shoe company donated $500,000 worth of shoes to first responders and allows consumers to buy a pair as a donation.