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5 ways your brand is forbidden from celebrating the Platinum Jubilee

With The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations fast approaching, brands all over Britain are racing to get a slice of the royal pie.

But playing into current Royal Family events in your products and marketing is a dangerous game – one which several well-known brands have fallen foul of in the past.

Print marketing experts Solopress break down the five regulations you’ll need to watch out for as a company when referencing Her Majesty’s 70-year reign…

  • Don’t mention the Royals in your marketing

In celebration of the Jubilee occasion, The Queen has approved a temporary relaxation of the usual stringent rules regarding mentioning the Royals on memorabilia. Platinum Jubilee souvenirs are now allowed to use photographs of the Royals provided they meet copyright requirements and comply with official Royal regulations.

However, strict rules remain when discussing the Royals in other scenarios such as marketing materials. Members of the Royal Family should not be shown or made reference to in marketing communications without their prior permission, which you are unlikely to receive except in special cases such as “where the event or place is of outstanding importance or a national event or there is a close Royal association” (gov.uk). Ryanair’s press ad featuring a photograph of Prince Charles with the headline “Prince’s secret revealed!” was taken down by the ASA for not seeking permission to use the photograph of Prince Charles in the campaign – despite the photos being taken at a public event.

The Advertising Standards Authority acknowledges that there may be certain cases where incidental references may be permissible, for example reference to a book about the Royals. Meanwhile, many companies have successfully utilised the Royal Family in their marketing through indirect references, such as this Warburton’s advert upon the birth of Prince George which avoided direct mentions of the Royals.

  • Don’t imply Royal endorsement – directly or indirectly

If you do make mention of the Royal Family, make sure you stray on the side of caution, as associating your brand products or event with Royal approval could lead to action being taken. Irish property developer Hagan Homes were forced to remove adverts featuring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with the tagline “fit for part-time royalty” due to the implication of endorsement and for failing to gain permission to use photographs of the couple.

  • Rules for using Royal Arms and Emblems

The use of Royal Arms and Devices is permitted for souvenirs related to the jubilee event, providing they are in good taste, free from any form of advertisement and carry no implication of Royal Custom or Approval. These items must also be permanent in nature, i.e. made from a “semi-destructible material”, and must be “specially made for the occasion”.

Outside of these circumstances, however, the Royal Arms and Emblems are not to be used “in connection with any trade or business”, as outlined by the Trade Marks Act 1994. The Royal Family’s official guidelines state that this also includes emblems “which are so similar as to be calculated to deceive” – meaning you can’t create emblems which may be confused with the Royal Arms, the Royal Crown and other official devices. This applies regardless of context and includes satirical settings and non-marketing communications used by brands.

The sole exception to this rule is if “the permission of the Member of the Royal Family concerned has been obtained”; however, even if you become a Royal Warrant holder, a strict ruleset exists which prohibits the use of the Royal Warrant imagery on banners and adverts on buses, taxis and trains, regulates where and how often Royal Arms can appear on packaging and products and prevents holders from using the warrant in a way which connotates use by the Royal Family.

  • Make sure your products or advertising won’t misinform

Whilst the selling of souvenir and memorabilia products is not prohibited providing they adhere to the above rules, it’s important to be clear that these products are not official memorabilia. Implying that products are approved by Royals or connected to the Royal Family, even in a comedic context, is strictly prohibited.

It’s also important to remember that advertising for these products must not mislead or be viewed as inaccurate. An advert for a doll of the Duke of Cambridge promising an “authentic likeness of the handsome Prince on his wedding day” was banned by the ASA when it was found that the advert for the doll differed from the product sold, with the ASA commenting that “the face of the doll differed from that advertised in being slimmer and painted in a more vibrant, and less realistic, way.”

  • Using the terms “Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” and “Queen Elizabeth II”

Royal Guidance has been released on using royal-related terms during the event. Although the name “Platinum Jubilee” may be used freely for events, projects and buildings relating to the occasion, approval must be applied for when referencing terms such as “Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee”, “The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” or “Queen Elizabeth II” for all communications, even for small community events. Approval requests should be directed to royalnames@cabinetoffice.gov.uk in England and Northern Ireland, protocolandhonours@gov.scot in Scotland and brandingqueries@gov.wales in Wales.

Well-known British brands have already begun working the Platinum Jubilee into their product lineup in ways which adhere to the restrictions on royal titles, with Heinz recently releasing limited-edition versions of their products labelled “HM Sauce” and “Salad Queen”, cleverly avoiding the list of terms made off-bounds by the Royal Family whilst still managing to celebrate the Jubilee.

Glen Eckett, Head of Marketing at Solopress, said: “It’s an exciting time for businesses around the country as we approach this summer’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations – although strict requirements around commemorating the occasion are still in place, The Queen has temporarily eased some of the usual restrictions, opening up exciting new opportunities for business and community endeavours nationwide.”

Western brands are quitting Russia. Will such measures really weaken Putin’s resolve or just hurt Russian people?

By Matt Hay, CEO and founder of Bulbshare

With the war in Ukraine now well into its second month and news of fresh atrocities filtering through every day, it’s clear that the actions taken by Western governments and brands have done little to deter Russia.

Originally designed to be short and sharp, it now seems that they will have to dig in and play the long game if sanctions are to have any effect. But in the face of growing pain among ordinary Russians and rocketing prices in their home markets, how long will brands be able to hold out?

Staff at the Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI) have been busy since late February. The Yale-affiliated school for CEOs is tracking the number of US brands that have stopped doing business in Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Led by CELI CEO Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the list has now grown to over 600 companies.

The CELI list has helped mobilise public opinion and incentivise brands to vote with their feet. For those that rely on the Russian market for a small sliver of global profits, the reputational risk of sticking around isn’t worth running. Coca Cola, for instance, drew less than two percent of its income from Russia last year. Better now to affirm commitment to the people of Ukraine and pull out. But as Sonnenfeld’s list grows, it’s also become clear that not everyone is so willing to boycott.

This presents brands with a moral quandary. Do they stay put and risk consumer backlash? Do they leave and if so, does their leaving put ordinary Russians at risk? Perhaps, given that the war has shown little sign of abating despite the corporate exodus, brands should be exploring other ways in which they can actively aid Ukraine.

Hold outs 

Brands that are more reliant on the Russian market have been noticeably less strident. “One should not condemn companies that decide to stay in Russia as financiers of Putin’s war,” says Michael Harms, head of Germany’s Eastern Business Association, a lobbyist group. The Economist reports that a few big German supermarkets (notably Metro and Globus) have decided it’s business as usual in the east, reasoning that closing stores there would mean firing staff and abandoning customers who rely on their products.

Companies that provide citizens with food, basic cleaning products or medicines have a knottier decision than say, soft drinks or fast food. Pharmaceutical brands Sanofi and Pfizer for instance, have committed to continuing to provide medications but to scale back on business not related to the supply of medications. They’ve also committed funding to support humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.Procter & Gamble, the American FMCG giant, meanwhile is still selling basic health and hygiene items in Russia, but has signified an urge to scale back by ceasing its advertising there.

Not everyone has the option to leave either. Some brands are contractually stuck in the Russian market. Retailer Marks and Spencer, fast food brand Burger King, and hotels Marriott and Accor are tied in with franchising schemes that they cannot free themselves from. These companies have found a solution in distancing themselves from the Kremlin by outsourcing to Russian third parties. But does this measure resemble any kind of a meaningful boycott?

Penalising Putin

I would argue that it doesn’t. And all this begs the question: who feels the most pain when western brands depart? According to reports, the invasion of Ukraine seems to be rapidly and dramatically re-shaping everyday life in Russia in a way reminiscent of Soviet life. The removal of Western iconography like McDonalds from Russian streets might feel like a dismaying regression. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that consumer prices jumped 2.2% in the first week of the invasion, with food prices spiralling upwards. Some shops are trying to prevent hoarding by restricting staple products. For a despot who seems increasingly shielded from the travails of his subjects, Putin and his gang of cronies are unlikely to care about the declining quality of life in Russia.

Who really feels the pain?

It’s also worth bearing in mind that both sanctions and the conflict are having a deleterious impact on consumers around the globe. Already stretched thin by the supply chain issues of the past two years and rising energy bills, consumers face massive price increases in everything from sunflower oil to wheat and commodities like aluminium, copper, and nickel. All of those are things that go into the goods we consume daily.

Given that inflation was already rising at a concerning rate, brands will have to either innovate around the problem or risk taking a long-term hit to their bottom lines while trying to keep shareholders happy.

Measuring sentiment

As the world reacts in shock to Russian atrocities in Ukraine, the relationship between politics and brands will become increasingly complex and interdependent. For instance, research from within Bulbshare’s extensive community of respondents indicates that customers are more motivated by the actions of nation states than ever. For instance, when we asked our community whether they would boycott Russian businesses and banks, 77% answered ‘yes’. Our insight also shows a clear distinction between the actions of Putin and the Russian people, when asked whether they were worried about how the war would impact Russian citizens, 74% answered in the affirmative.

The role of brands in tumultuous times such as this is a thorny one. Increasingly companies are expected to contribute in a way that ushers in positive political and social change. Leaders in the West must find a way to weaken Putin’s grip, while minimising economic pain for citizens.

Tough new rules on brands and gambling

Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced the introduction of tough new rules for gambling ads in a bid to protect young adults and the vulnerable.

The rules will significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under-18.

The new rules state that gambling and lottery ads must not: “be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.”

This is a step-change from the existing rules that gambling ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to children. A ‘strong’ appeal test prohibits content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how it is viewed by adults.

In practice, this will significantly restrict the imagery and references that gambling ads will be allowed to use and should decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience. For example, ads will not be able to use:

  • Topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18 on social media.
  • All sportspeople well-known to under-18s, including sportspeople with a considerable volume of under-18 followers on social media.
  • References to video game content and gameplay popular with under-18s.
  • Stars from reality shows popular with under-18s, such as Love Island.

The new rules come into effect on 1st October 2022.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of CAP, said: “The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered.

“By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

50% of consumers won’t shop with brands that greenwash

As consumer demand for environmentally friendly and green products grows, retailers could be risking lost long-term loyalty if their sustainability efforts aren’t genuine.

That’s according to research from Retail Technology Show, which surveyed over 2,000 UK shoppers in its latest ‘Retail Revolution’ report, with results showing that almost half (47%) already actively buy more from brands they perceive to be sustainable, rising to 65% of Gen Z demographics.

And demand for ‘green’ retailing among shoppers is growing; six in ten (60%) of those polled said retailers’ commitment to sustainability would become more of an important factor in their buying decisions over the next five years, rising to 67% of 18-25 year olds.  Meanwhile, a further 65% of 18-24 year-olds say they would shop more with brands who are sustainable in the future, and another 63% would be more loyal to those retailers with green values.

However, despite the growing appetite for green retail – with the green pound estimated to reached over £122bn – two thirds (62%) of consumers in another poll by Retail Insight were untrusting of retailers’ and brands’ eco pledges, believing they merely pay lip-service to sustainability initiatives.  This growing concern around ‘greenwashing’ prompted the CMA’s recent crackdown on brands, who will face fines if they don’t deliver on the environmental claims they market against.

And this consumer distrust on the sincerity of retailers’ sustainable commitments doesn’t just risk possible fines and reputational damage, according to Retail Technology Show’s research, it risks future sales and lost loyalty too.  Half (50%) of UK consumers in its poll said they would stop shopping altogether with brands they perceive to be greenwashing, rising to almost two thirds (63%) of Gen Z audiences and 59% of Millennials.

“Put simply, greenwashing just won’t wash with shoppers”, said Matt Bradley, Event Director for the Retail Technology Show.  “Consumers now expect retailers’ sustainability efforts to be deeply and genuinely rooted in the brands’ psyche, rather than it being any short-termist play.  And that means retail businesses need to carefully consider both how they can evolve their businesses operationally to be greener, and also how this is effectively communicated to shoppers in a genuine, transparent and engaging manner.”

Using less packaging was the top way UK consumers felt retailers could make their operations greener (78%), while a further 71% identified the supply chain as a focus for improvements, followed by 69% who said making bricks-and-mortar stores more eco would help retailers improve sustainability.  Almost half (48%) wanted retailers to pay an online delivery ‘green tax’ so the environmental impact of their ecommerce fulfilment operations could be offset, rising to 61% of 18-24 year-olds.

To find out more about the top trends impacting retail in 2022 and beyond, download the full Retail Revolution report for free: https://bit.ly/RTS_Retail_Revolution_Report

Brands ‘facing battle to stand out’ in mobile marketing space

By Adri Gil Miner, CMO of Iterable

Love is always in the air during February, and consumers are turning to digital like never before. Working from home and socially distanced, consumers’ increased time spent online dating; research from App Annie found consumers spent over $3 billion on dating apps in 2020 – up 15% YoY. It’s clear that consumers want to invest in romance, but how can brands woo shoppers in a sea of similar offerings?

First, get noticed. These days, everyone has a phone in their pocket, so, as a brand, being able to always be with the customer is a huge plus for marketers. Mobile is a medium for engagement that marketers can’t afford to ignore. Of course, the power of mobile is only potential; for marketers to ensure they are getting the most value out of mobile, it’s important they focus on meeting customer expectations by building trust, delivering value, and constantly connecting experiences. New research from Iterable finds that while 33% of participants download a new app weekly, 48% use only 4-6 apps on a daily basis, leaving brands in a battle for users’ attention.

Competition and consumer app attention only escalates when it comes to dating. During the pandemic, online dating reached new heights — with Bumble reporting a 70% increase in video calls and Tinder exceeding 3 billion swipes in one day in March 2020. But that was in 2020. By now, engagement preferences have changed, rendering traditional dating app actions like “swiping” obsolete. Iterable’s research finds that consumers are split on their preferred method of engaging with a brand, with 38% preferring push notifications, 31% favouring SMS alerts and 26% preferring in-app messaging. With such an array of preferences, an omnichannel strategy that is optimised for each individual customer is vital for brands looking to engage with their customers in the manner that suits them best.

Fine-tuning and rethinking the user experience is a great way for dating apps to stand out in  a sea of similarity. But now, in an internet-based world, brands are faced with the challenge of digital sameness—the customer experience across dating apps has become pretty uniform. In a Forrester survey, consumers were asked how they feel about the experiences they have with brands. The results? 68% of customers said their customer experiences were “OK”. Brands are likely thinking “we’re doing what everyone else is doing, so that’s good right?” Living in this safe, comfortable area is problematic for brands looking to win customer hearts and minds. All it takes is one brand to go above and beyond to shift the expectations and turn satisfactory experiences into not-so-satisfactory.

Once you ensure your brand is doing what it can to stay on the cutting edge of a great—not good—customer experience, seal the deal of long  term loyalty by investing in another priority for shoppers: privacy, which is especially key to consumers when it comes to dating apps. Although consumers are generally willing to share data, with 54% happy to do so at least some of the time, privacy concerns are still at the front of consumer’s minds. 87% expressed concern over personal privacy when interacting with apps.

With app downloads hitting 230 billion in 2021, it’s vital brands understand ways to improve app engagement and stickiness to avoid getting lost amongst the competition.

Dating apps, by definition, have considerable influence when it comes to impacting customer joy and connection. To deliver memorable moments, brands need to invest in creating a seamless experience across channels; from personalised emails reminding shoppers to plan for the big day to encouraging sustained communications with connections made online, the possibilities for omnichannel optimised business is endless.

Brands cannot neglect transparency when nurturing customer experiences. Dating apps in particular rely on users being willing to entrust sensitive, personal conversations to the brand’s care. Customers that interact with brands need to have an up-front idea of how their data will be used. Winning this trust early on is crucial for keeping customers board for the long haul.

By utilising all methods of engagement and appreciating the preferences of customers, brands can give their apps the best chance of standing out from the pack and becoming mainstays in the user mobile experience.

When you’re unhappy with a relationship, you break up and move on. If the grass isn’t greener in the other relationship, you go back to your previous partner. Consumers act similarly when it comes to brands. When there is a part of the consumer journey with a brand that positively impacts their overall experience, and then they switch to a different brand that doesn’t provide the same part, the experience with the second brand is viewed less favourably—not because it’s worse than it used to be, compared to itself, but because it’s worse than the first brand’s experience. They gravitate back to the better experience.

Mood, monotony and motivation: The keys to brand success

Team Lewis has launched its latest trends guide in partnership with market research firm GWI, looking into how today’s multi-moment audience is evolving and the changes the pandemic has brought about in today’s marketing multiverse.

Markets covered in the report include Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, UK and US. 

With a rise in screen time and device ownership, unrestrained social media usage and growing concerns surrounding privacy, today’s audiences have an increased desire to impact the world around them. These shifts point to three key themes covered in the report – ending monotony to avoid marketing immunity, understanding how mood can impact an audience, and tapping into key motivators to foster more meaningful connections.  

Key findings include: 

Screen time 

o        Screen time continues to grow in most countries, with the exception of Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the US   

o        Hong Kongers & Malaysians prefer to spend more time on their mobile devices compared to PCs, laptops and tablets

Device ownership 

o        Globally, audiences own at least three devices   

o        Malaysians on average own fewer than three devices but spend the most time on the internet globally. The US, UK, Germany and Italy are above the global average when it comes to device ownership.

Social Media usage 

o        APAC countries use an average of four platforms daily  

o        Western Europe has the lowest usage, with fewer than three platforms daily

Attitudes towards privacy 

o        Globally, the top concern amongst consumers is how companies use their personal data online (39%) followed by a preference to maintain anonymity online (34%)

Today’s marketing landscape 

o        Leading channels 

  • The website is still king – 56% visited a brand’s website in the last month   
  • Newsletters are still effective – 26% read an email or newsletter from a brand  

o        Expectations of consumers 

  • Global consumers unanimously want brands to be reliable, authentic and innovative 

o        The rise of Audio 

  • In the last three years, there has been an increase in consumption of music streaming services and podcasts 
  • Australia & Singapore are seeing the most growth in music streaming and podcast listenership YOY  

o        Scepticism with social media 

  • Only 23% of consumers globally think social media is good for society 
  • Malaysians are the most positive about social media, with 40% seeing it as a force for good 

“It’s no longer as simple as getting in front of your audience with a single message as many times as possible,” said Simon Billington, Executive Creative Director at TEAM LEWIS. “Consumer expectations of a brand’s interaction with them is clear. They want unique, attention-grabbing creativity delivered in a personalised way. The complexity of message and the vehicle the message is delivered in is paramount to success.” 

Download the Marketing in 2022: Multi-Moment Audience report here.

Why marketers need to think ‘Human to Human’ rather than ‘Brand to Consumer’

2020 & 2021: the years where digital kept us connected – not just internationally, but at regional and even very local levels. For many businesses, digital was the saviour, ensuring business could continue – even grow.

Yet, while it may have initially seemed important for retailers to digitise their brand strategy, ploughing efforts into everything from social media to website tools, so the brand would translate in a completely digital world, the fact is that people have realised more than ever the value of human interaction. How easy has it been, therefore, to remain truly connected to the people your brand speaks to?

A brand is not just what you do through your marketing tactics. It’s a feeling it stirs, an experience it creates, and a story it tells. While there are many amazing things brands can do in the digital world, to be a real success, brands need the human element to sit at the heart of their digital brand strategy, as Neelam Kharay, Chief of Staff – GTM, Acoustic, explores…

The new marketing playbook

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other, and 2021 certainly has not reverted back to the ‘old normal’. In fact, the age of COVID-19 has upended the marketing playbook, challenging conceived truths and redefining the rules. Whilst digital strategies were accelerated across all industries during the start of the pandemic as a matter of business survival, customer expectations have changed. Forget the slick digital journey and the ability to deliver exactly what a consumer wants, when they want it – that is now a given. Instead, customers expect their relationship to matter to you; and they expect your brand to stand for great values they can resonate with.

While delivering on these experiences requires organisations to place technology and data at the core of their marketing delivery, to sharpen their decision-making and drive greater relevance in their customer interactions to build stronger, more relevant connections, they also require something more. They require the ability to engender trust – and that, in itself demands authenticity, integrity, and humanity.

So how do brands become human?

Building human engagement 

We must remember that our target consumers are not just defined by demographics or psychographics — they’re defined by their intent, and by countless other indiscernible or unquantifiable factors. In essence, our prospective customers — just like us — are more than what meets the eye. Brands must ensure they’re both representative, and fully aware and understanding, of the most important issues and key drivers influencing all consumers’ behaviours.

By building teams that are as diverse as your customers, and by ‘stepping into the shoes’ of your customers as often as possible, brands can help account for their many perspectives and needs, bringing a more authentic voice to all marketing communications and content.

Indeed, authenticity is critical when it comes to forming connections between brands and consumers. With 86% of consumers reporting that authenticity is a deciding factor when determining which brands to support, the more authentic you are in your communications, the greater the sense of transparency and trust you will engender with them, which will lead to loyalty.

C-suite agenda

During the pandemic, marketing was elevated within the C-suite as the voice of the consumer. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, in good times and bad, the C-suite cannot adjust to the threats and opportunities at hand and successfully navigate the future.

One of the new ‘rules’ of post-COVID marketing is, therefore, C-level engagement. In order to be authentic in your communications as a marketer, you need a deep understanding of who your brand is: what its values are; what its tone and voice are; who its key customers are – all of which are of paramount importance to other functional leaders.

From there, you can craft authentic communications that accurately reflect your brand personality while uncovering the pain points of your target audience. Everything from style to word choice to the visual elements you include are part of what gives a brand personality, and should be carefully crafted and honed in order to connect with your target customer(s). Moreover, developing a personality that responds to how customers are feeling and acting in the moment, and is authentically reflective of that across every touchpoint a customer has with your brand, is key to developing trust.

Consider, for example, how a company like Bombas has made improving the lives of people facing housing insecurity a key element of its brand ethos and product strategy, or how Old Navy has made all clothing styles accessible to people of all shapes and sizes with no change in price. During the pandemic, the British Heart Foundation also demonstrated empathy by offering COVID-secure collection of donations normally dropped off at collection points, for those who perhaps didn’t want to, or couldn’t, leave their homes. These are brand personalities with an authentic vision and a clarity of purpose behind them to which consumers can align their own values.

Conclusion

Ultimately, becoming ‘more human’ starts with being human and therefore having a point of view; a tone; a look and feel. In essence, in today’s climate, marketers need to think ‘human-to-human’ instead of ‘brand-to-consumer’.

Brand loyalty being tested by supply chain issues

Cancelled orders and lengthy delays because of the supply chain crisis are testing British consumers’ brand loyalty like never before, with 85% of young shoppers saying they would rather switch labels than wait for their favourites to arrive.

The surprising findings show just how seriously the supply chain bottleneck is affecting peoples’ buying habits, with 91% of consumers in the UK worried that the problems are here to stay.

The research, carried out by Oracle, shows that 77% of respondents have felt the supply pinch, which has been blamed on the impact of Covid and post-Brexit adjustments.

Feelings of frustration and anxiety are common place with 74% of people saying that future delays could cause them to cut ties with their favourite brands permanently.

But consumers’ faith in technology to help iron out kinks in the supply chain is strong, with 70% saying they would be more willing to buy from a brand they knew used artificial intelligence to manage their supply chain.

“Businesses need to be able to provide a consistent and transparent service to customers or risk losing them, with some consumers willing to sacrifice the product quality for the ease of delivery”, said Emma Sutton, chief customer officer, EMEA Consulting, Business Transformation, Oracle. “Supply-chains are global but the technology is available to manage them from anywhere in the world, predicting disruption in order to get ahead of it, and keeping customers updated in real-time.”

Setting the bar as a trusted brand

By Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe, CRO, EVRYTHNG

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is a tough one. Highly competitive, crowded, and frequently driven by price. Now producers are being put under even greater pressure, as consumers increasingly only want to buy from brands that they feel align with their own values.

With people becoming more aware of what they are putting into their bodies the focus on health issues is intensifying, coupled with sustainability and inclusivity being taken more seriously (particularly by millennials and Gen Z). This means that brands that want to retain, or even gain, a share of the market need to be seen visibly contributing to these causes.

Consumers are increasingly holding brands to account, wanting more information than can be delivered on a label or billboard. Businesses must now be able to show that their products have been sourced, produced, even transported, in a safe and sustainable way – along every step of the supply chain.

These demands for data are too important to ignore, with 99% of consumers saying that transparency is important in fresh food products, and 75% of consumers stating they would switch to brands offering more complete information[1].

With the addition of regulators requiring enhanced transparency and accuracy around Environmental Social and Governance (ESG), it’s more important than ever that companies seek to establish a reputation of trust.

True transparency

It’s no longer enough to simply state that a product is Fairtrade/organic/non-GMO. Consumers want to see the proof of this. They want evidence that a brand is treating its workers fairly and behaving in an ethical and safe manner – and this expectation extends across the entire supply chain. As younger generations gain more buying power this demand for rich information will increase, and brands need to adapt to this market now.

So far, gaining this full visibility across the whole supply chain has been difficult, with data being disparate and inconsistent across suppliers. However, with the ability to mass serialise products, digitally print unique identities onto goods on a mass scale is becoming more affordable. Coupled with the computing power and cloud capacity to share, process and store these massive amounts of data from each product, true end to end visibility is within reach.

This stands to revolutionise the CPG industry – enabling consumers and businesses to access all the information around a product’s life cycle by simply scanning a code – delivering true end to end visibility for the first time. It also provides businesses with both the challenge and opportunity of finally being able to meet customer expectations of transparency. Consumers will expect it, and it will be up to businesses to ensure they deliver it – or risk losing market share to those that do. Done successfully, this provides a chance to build trust, even generate loyalty, across a customer base that can be engaged with both pre and post purchase on an ongoing basis.

Maximising engagement to build trust

Up until now opportunities to directly engage with consumers across the CPG market have been limited due to the lack of product registrations in this arena. Product digital identity stands to change all that, as consumers are able to scan a code pre-purchase – giving a line of communication to potential purchasers, and further opportunities to engage post purchase – all with the aim of encouraging repeat or further purchases from the same brand.

Of course, this all depends on the consumer liking what they see when they access that information. As the market matures there is no doubt that there will be an increasing expectation of richer data and superior levels of transparency and authenticity.

Changing the game on product recalls

The benefits of this new technology go beyond meeting consumer demands for information on how a product is produced. It will also make a significant difference to the tricky area of product recalls.

No matter how focused a company is on safety, recalls are commonplace. How this is managed can have a significant impact on a brand’s reputation and the trust its customers place in it. In the CPG arena recalls are frequently done via in-store posters, social media, and email. There is very little opportunity for direct-to-consumer engagement, purely because the nature of the market means that product registration is rare (for example, a consumer would not register a bottle of shampoo, or a tin of beans).

As well as enabling companies to maximise both pre and post purchase engagement, it will also provide a direct channel to issue safety alerts should the need arise. Managing crisis points in this way will go even further in protecting, if not building, that all important consumer trust.

Plan now for the consumer of the future

There is no doubt in my mind that product digital identities are the future. In addition to meeting the ever-growing demands for data from the consumer, it also plays into the ESG movement by providing information on product life cycle, highlighting opportunities to enhance sustainability.

Businesses must start to plan now for the consumer of the future and consider how they will meet customer expectations but also maximise the potential opportunities and establish themselves as a trusted brand. This means:

  • Starting to gather information across the entire product and consumer journey
  • Unifying data from supplier, internal, and consumer facing applications around a unique and cloud enabled product identity
  • Enabling each point of contact with the product to read and write contextually relevant data
  • Let customers know. Highlighting the fact that they are fully transparent, and that consumers can easily access the product life cycle and a full suite of information about its origins
  • The industry as a whole must work together to fully embed this new technology so that everyone can benefit.

It is essential that businesses start taking these steps sooner rather than later and use the plentiful opportunities that end to end visibility and product digital identities offer in order to build a reputation as a trusted brand – ensuring that they are the ones that consumers are switching to, not from.

[1] Response Media Survey & Food Marketing Institute

Two-thirds of UK consumers return to brands who treat them as an individual

New research has revealed the extent to which the pandemic has changed customers’ expectations of brands, and the increasingly important role of a streamlined digital experience post-COVID. 

The new data – from a survey of 2,000 UK respondents undertaken by OpenText – reveals that 62% of UK consumers are more likely to buy again from brands which treat them like an individual, rather than the same as any other customer. This demand for brands to engage with customers as an individual is mirrored across Europe – in Italy (70%), Spain (63%), France (59%) and Germany (55%).  

Four out of ten (43%) UK consumers only buy from brands that make them feel they understand their preferences, such as communicating with them through their favourite channels or providing tailored deals.  

Customer Experience is King 

More than half (56%) of UK consumers would be put off buying again from a brand due to a bad experience. In fact, six out of ten (60%) do not believe there is such thing as a ‘customer for life’ anymore in 2021, suggesting that brands cannot rely on customer loyalty stretching far enough to recover from bad experiences. 

Creating a frictionless experience for customers is key to providing a good experience. When buying products or services online, nearly three out of four (72%) UK consumers say that an easy search is very important to them. Furthermore, half (48%) prefer to shop with brands that auto-fill and remember their details for next time. There is, however, pressure on brands to store that data correctly: half (54%) would even be willing to pay more to do business with a brand that is committed to protecting their personal data. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a dramatic catalyst for digital acceleration across all sectors, forcing businesses to change how they communicate with customers,” said Lou Blatt, Senior Vice President and CMO at OpenText. “As a result, customer expectations have also shifted. They now expect more from brands – more communication channels, more personalisation and, above all, a more continuous and connected digital experience. The ability to deliver rich, ultra-personalised communications at scale, across all touch points and channels, is now mission-critical for acquiring, developing and retaining customers.” 

The importance of digital in a post-COVID world 

For 54% of UK consumers, the pandemic has changed their expectations of what a brand’s digital offering should be. One fifth (19%) won’t use brands if their experience isn’t excellent when buying online. 

Nearly half (46%) are now more comfortable with digital only businesses as a result of the pandemic. For more than 4 in 10 (43%) UK consumers, a personalised digital experience is now vital to them if they are to come back to a brand time and time again. 

The research also reveals consumer perspectives on which organisations have risen to the challenge of providing an optimal experience during the turbulence of the last year. Four in 10 (40%) say bigger established brands have been able to offer a smoother digital experience than smaller ones during the pandemic. 

“Creating a positive customer experience is all about removing friction and increasing relevance: the easier something is to do and the more relevant it is to each customer, the better the experience,” said Guy Hellier. Vice President, Product Management at OpenText. “Today, customers expect their journey, from researching products to tracking orders, to transition seamlessly from one digital platform to another while retaining a consistent personalised feel – delivered across any device, at any time. For brands, this means investing in a digital experience platform which enables them to integrate data, information, and assets seamlessly across different environments. Without this in place, brands will struggle to create and deliver the cohesive and personalised experiences needed to win and retain customers.”