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Brands

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.” 

Demand versus Brand – the dangers of fragmented marketing

Marketing excellence is a prerequisite to 21st century business success. But while budgets soar and  CMO profiles rise, escalating marketing awareness to board level is creating a dangerous fragmentation of the marketing strategy.

Good CMOs are, unfortunately, spending more time justifying strategy than delivering. They are navigating a c-suite often polarised between brand and demand; obsessed with performance and ROI. They have to explain why it is important to explore multiple digital channels to market, even if one outperforms the others. Less confident individuals are caving in to pressure – undermining business performance as a result. 

With the latest generation of marketing recruits demonstrating more confidence with marketingtechnology (MarTech) than converting sentiment into effective creatives, the essence of successful marketing risks being side-lined just as it is becoming more important than ever. Norman Guadagno, CMO, Acoustic, explains why good marketing is a holistic mix of brand and demand — and why MarTech should support, not replace, creative expertise…

Centre Stage

Marketing has never been more important. In a world where the quality of customer experience dominates consumer and, therefore, corporate thinking, marketing is at the centre of many business initiatives. According to the latest CMO Survey, 73% of UK marketing leaders confirm the role of marketing in their companies increased in importance during the last year.

Yet this strategic role creates new challenges for marketers. CMOs have the ear of the board – even a seat at the board – for the first time, and very few c-suites have any real insight into the complexities or intricacies of successful marketing. This is understandable, to a degree, given the astonishing pace with which marketing has evolved over the past decade, from the increasing sophistication of new digital channels to the ever-extending marketing technology stack.

The result, however, is often divergent attitudes and priorities. For every board member citing the Oatly story, the company that has built a $10 billion ‘oat and water’ business on the back of a brand image that resonates with a health, environmental and wellness-focused customer audience, will be another lauding the value of demand-focused marketing, with the ability to compare lead generation performance in granular detail across a multiplicity of channels.

Brand and Demand

Both points-of-view have merit – but they are driving a worrying fragmentation in marketingactivity. CMOs are spending less time creating strategy and far more refereeing misinformed ‘brand’ versus ‘demand’ battles in the board room.

Brand and demand are two sides of the same coin. A brilliantly crafted demand generation campaign that presents the perfect message, in front of the ideal prospect, at the best time, will deliver far better results if that prospect already has some form of brand knowledge and understanding. Operating a demand campaign in a brand vacuum is a massive waste of marketing resources.

Successful marketing takes a holistic approach and even the most skilled expert in demand generation needs to understand brand to ensure every aspect of the marketing mix works.

Obsessive Measurement

Of course, many of the loudest voices in the c-suite will shout that ‘brand’ is a nebulous concept while ‘demand’ can be tracked and assessed in extraordinary detail. Again, this reinforces the lack of understanding into how good marketing works. In many ways, digital marketing’s inherent ‘measurability’ is its Achilles heel, encouraging the judgement of marketing activity only on quantitative performance.

Companies are endlessly demanding measurement of brand perception and brand awareness – and ROI from brand campaigns. This totally misses the point – brand as a holistic concept is not implicitly measurable (although investors certainly flock towards companies with excellent brand recognition) but it is hugely valuable within the overall marketing mix. Strong brand awareness coupled with positive brand perception will make it far easier to create marketing qualified leads (MQLs); it will ease the conversion process; it will set the foundation for customer expectation.

In addition to explaining the value of combining strong brand and demand campaigns many CMOs also have to justify the basics of marketing activity. Why, ask management teams, is money being wasted on multiple customer acquisition channels when one or two so clearly outperform the rest?

Wrong Questions

While such questions may make sense in a linear operational process – manufacturing or logistics, for example – marketing, irrespective of technology and metrics, remains a far more nuanced activity.

Good marketers know the importance of testing, evolving strategy and building the right messaging. They know that in a constantly changing market, performance is never static. Customer expectations change, cultural events will influence the relevance, even appropriateness, of activity. Yet there is a risk that less experienced individuals will cave into to management pressure to focus only on demand, on today’s top performing channels – and the business will suffer as a result.

Success should be analysed not just by the numbers. Companies need to understand the effectiveness and relevance of messaging: Does it reflect current cultural events? Is it enhancing the brand? Does it provide value to the customer or prospect?

Creative Expertise

The risk for marketers is that in an increasingly technology- and measurement-driven discipline, the essence of creativity — of recognising how to speak to the customer with the right sentiment — will be lost. Indeed, growing numbers of young marketers are now arriving in a business with a great understanding of the mechanics of successful campaign delivery and technology expertise but little, if not zero, insight into how to craft the correct message, one that piques the customer’s interest.

Technology should not drive marketing – and marketing teams need to be creative first, ‘mar-technicians’ second.  Technology should provide the entire team with a complete view of how, where and when customers interact with marketing activity to ensure the strategy is infused into every message.

It should empower individuals to experiment with messaging, delivering rapid insight – through A/B testing for example – into how customers respond to small changes in emphasis. It should help a company understand how best to approach a new market, to measure existing brand awareness, for example, but the creative skills of the marketing team are then vital to identify how to entice that new audience, to create the best messaging to tap into their mindset.

Conclusion

Marketing is not a linear activity. Customer expectations, experiences and desires change constantly; the way they can interact with a brand evolves continuously. Good marketing will be judicious mix of innovation and consistency. And the best CMOs will balance brand with demand; they will maximise the value of proven channels while always looking towards – and experimenting with – the new.

Marketing teams require a holistic skillset that blends creativity with technical confidence. And business leaders need to recognise that while MarTech provides a great insight into marketingvalue, it is not the be all and end all of marketing success. Pitching brand against demand makes no sense – it is the way in which a company reaches out to customers that is key. It is the message, not the channel, that resonates.

Digital brand interaction on the rise due to pandemic

Over half (55%) of UK adults will interact with brands more through digital and virtual channels than face-to-face post-pandemic, according to a global study from Nuance.

The study, which polled 10,000 adults across the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Mexico, also found that over half (51%) of UK respondents would rather use apps or a company’s website than go into a physical branch or store to complete tasks such as shopping and banking.

When it comes to communicating with brands, over one in four (26%) UK adults said they still preferred in-person visits or phone (13%), 42% choose digital channels including email, live-chat and chat-bots. Convenience (51%) and speed (36%) were the most common drivers for choosing a preferred method of communication, with speaking to a ‘real’ human (26%) trailing.

Nuance says the findings illustrate that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using technology to make purchases and access services, while still expecting brands to deliver a human touch when required.

In addition to being more comfortable using tech like chatbots, virtual assistants, and mobile applications to interact with brands, adults in the UK have also increased their trust in tech that helps them access their personal information and accounts online.

According to the study, almost half (45%) are now more comfortable using biometrics to authenticate themselves when accessing their accounts than they were before the pandemic, with 38% feeling more comfortable using their smartphone to access their accounts as well. These figures are reflected in the global findings with a similar number (49%) more comfortable using biometrics and 47% more comfortable using their smartphone to access accounts.

A third (34%) of UK respondents now place the most trust in a form of biometrics (either voice, facial, fingerprint, behavioural, or combinations of each) as a means of authentication. This is an important step in the right direction, says Nuance, as fraudsters have been increasingly targeting individuals during the pandemic, exploiting archaic authentication methods like PINs and passwords that can be made accessible via the dark web to gain access to consumer accounts and funds. While this is progress, the UK still lags behind the US in terms of trust in biometrics, with nearly half (45%) of adults backing the technology.

This growing trust in technology across age groups is likely a reflection of the positive experiences customers have received online. When asked about how they would rate the customer services they’ve accessed online over the past 12 months – services that might have previously been accessed in-person, like banking or shopping – 58% of UK shoppers said good or excellent. This is less than the global responses, in which two thirds (66%) rated their customer services at the same level.

“With convenience, speed, and ultimately getting the job done prevailing as clear priorities for buyers, organisations such as retailers, banks, and utilities companies must develop strategies for delivering consistently efficient and effective digital experiences,” said Seb Reeve, Intelligent Engagement Market Development at Nuance. “From slick and secure authentication processes to intuitive AI powered intelligent assistants, technology must be able to manage the personalised needs of customers while seamlessly bridging to human intervention when required at the right moment.”

“Customers expect immediate and effective conversations with the brands they engage with – whether those conversations are happening on the phone or via a chatbot on a company’s website. Empowering these engagements requires an integrated approach where an organisation not only can understand the customer’s intent but also authenticate that customer and start personalising their experience across every single channel – from in-person, to phone, to web, to mobile. With the pandemic creating an increasing comfort, trust, and preference among consumers to use technology when engaging with brands, it will be critical that organisations prioritise delivering superior digital experiences if they want to retain customer loyalty and continue to scale.”

Status of luxury brands ‘being ruined’ by customisation

As the fashion industry continues to give customers a more active role in designing their own products, luxury brands must be careful not to take customization too far, according to new research from Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna).

Many brands make it possible for customers to make their own design choices when it comes to selecting colors, fabrics, and cuts. But does this approach also work for luxury brands? Headed by Martin Schreier and Silke Hieke, researchers from WU Vienna’s Institute for Marketing Management set out to answer to answer this question, finding that, for luxury brands, there is such a thing as too much choice.

With new manufacturing processes opening up greater possibilities when it comes to customization, consumers now place a greater value on customized than on standard products.

However, while existing marketing research has shown that consumers like customized products because these unique products communicate their identity more effectively. This is only true for mainstream brands.

The WU Vienna researchers carried out a series of studies, showing that while luxury brands can indeed benefit from customization, there is also the risk of going too far. Particularly fashion-conscious customers – the primary consumer base of luxury brands – place great importance on their appearance and are more sensitive to prestige. Its because of this that these customers are highly aware of the signal value associated with luxury brands.

Customers pay a premium for the designer’s expertise and the status luxury brands convey. This means that the brand must remain clearly recognizable. If customization is taken too far, the consumers’ desire for self-expression can potentially erode the product’s signaling value.

“It pieces” like the Hermès Birkin bag have a special value because they are exclusive and they convey a clear brand identity.

According to the researchers, luxury brands can protect their ability to convey status by making the brand more prominent through overt means, for example through the obvious display of brand logos.

By assuring luxury consumers that others can receive the status signal that they are sending, these brands are able to give their consumers greater freedom for customization decisions.  In general, however, luxury brands should leave only a few design decisions to their customers to protect the signal value created by the brands and their designers.

The study has been published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Shift to subscriptions increases brand connections

Subscription businesses have grown nearly six times faster than the S&P 500 over the last nine years, driven by an increase in consumer demand for the use of such services.

That’s according to  Zuora’s bi-annual Subscription Economy Index (SEI), which was conducted online by The Harris Poll among 13,626 adults across 12 countries.

It reveals the growing consumer preferences for use of subscription services over the ownership of physical products. Results found within the End of Ownership report include: 

  • Use of subscription services is growing. 78% of international adults currently have subscription services (significantly higher than 71% in 2018), and 75% believe that in the future, people will subscribe to more services and own less physical ‘stuff’. 
  • Subscriptions increase brand connection. Nearly two-thirds of subscribers (64%) feel more connected to companies with whom they have a direct subscription experience versus companies whose products they simply purchase as one-off transactions. 
  • Consumers want to pay for what they use. Nearly three-quarters of international adults (72%) would prefer the ability to pay for what they use, rather than just a flat fee. 
  • Convenience, cost savings, and variety are top subscription benefits. Convenience (42%) tops the list of benefits for subscribing to a product or service instead of owning it, followed by cost savings (35%) and variety (35%, up from 32% in 2018). 

As a result of this burgeoning consumer lifestyle trend, subscription businesses have grown. For the first time since its inception in January 2012, the SEI growth rate reached 437% growth as it analyzed the impact of subscription businesses by sector, comparing subscription businesses in Software as a Service (SaaS), Internet of Things (IoT), Manufacturing, Publishing, Media, Telecommunications, Education, Healthcare and Business Services to their respective S&P 500 Industry benchmarks. 

When looking only at the year 2020 the Subscribed Institute found that:

  • Subscription business revenue outpaced that of their product-based peers. Last year, revenues of subscription companies in the SEI grew 11.6%, while the S&P 500 sales declined -1.6%. In Q4 alone, subscription businesses experienced revenue growth at a rate of 21%, seven times faster than S&P 500 companies’ growth rate of 3%.
  • Revenue per subscriber surpassed the 2019 rate. Subscription businesses in Q4 2020 had an 18% average revenue per user rate, compared to 14% in Q4 2019. The increase indicates that subscription businesses in the SEI are deepening relationships with customers and delivering services that increase in value over time. 
  • Subscription companies in the SEI performed better compared to regional stock markets. In Q1 2020, lockdowns and other safety measures seemed to slow subscription revenue growth (in APAC, revenue even contracted), but when lockdowns returned in Q4, subscription revenue growth accelerated, indicating that subscription companies were effective in adapting their offerings quickly. 

“The time is now for companies to embrace the subscription business model,” said Amy Konary, Founder and Chair of The Subscribed Institute at Zuora. “Our bi-annual Subscription Economy Index suggests that brands can increase value to their customers through the on-going delivery of services when and where they’re needed.” 

Download the Subscription Economy Index and the End of Ownership reports.

The eco-brands seeking to help the world

Although us as consumers might do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint like recycling all items possible, taking public transport, cutting down on meat consumption or switching from oil to gas, there are 20 firms behind a third of all global carbon emissions. According to researchers, these companies are responsible for knowingly accelerating the climate crisis even after scientific evidence.

Climate change is a global threat which requires global reforms enforced by governments across nations. Although the power of consumers pales in comparison to international corporations, consumers have a responsibility to spend their money which will have a positive impact rather than further empowering these harmful companies — eco brands that are sustainable. Research shows that 88 percent of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly, 

Here, we’ll take a look at the top brands that are making the biggest green waves in terms of sustainability, diversity, and equality.

Patagonia

The apparel industry as a whole accounts for around 10 per cent of global carbon emissions due to production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions of pieces of clothing purchased each year. To put that into perspective, aviation only accounts for two per cent of global emissions.

Patagonia is a popular outdoor adventure-wear brand which is committed to respecting the outdoors and nature that its shoppers respect. Patagonia is a B Corporation, with the “B” standing for “benefit.” These B Corps must meet extremely high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Brands must score a minimum of 80 to be certified, with Patagonia at 151.

All of the cotton and fabrics sourced for the clothing is certified organic as well as a high proportion of eco-friendly and recycled materials. Patagonia’s strategy is the opposite of fast fashion, creating products that are high-quality and long-lasting so that less is bought to replace garments that fall to pieces after a few wears. Shoppers are encouraged to buy and sell worn wear, with the option to send back in used items to be repaired and resold. The company donates one percent of sales to environmental organisations such as Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), with $89 million being donated since 1985.

The company is also known for progressive procedures and services like onsite childcare, three-day weekends every other week, and has pledged to bail any employee out of jail who is arrested for peacefully protesting for the environment.

tentree

It seems that outdoor brands are leading the way in sustainable business practices, with tentree, who create outdoor clothing and base their whole marketing strategy around planting ten trees for every purchase made. In 2016, tentree became a certified B Corp, scoring 124. Since the company’s start in 2012, tentree have planted almost 40 million trees in more than eight countries, with a corporate mission to plant one billion by 2030. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide emissions that are driving climate change, with research estimating that a global planting initiative could remove two-thirds of all emissions from human activities in the atmosphere.

tentree’s mission is reflected in the materials used as sustainable materials like lyocell and hemp. The brand endorses complete transparency in their operations, providing insight into its ethical manufacturing and disclosing the environmental footprint for each product made. In terms of inclusivity and diversity, tentree’s products are inclusive to body types.

CanO Water 

As mentioned prior with Coca-Cola being the world’s biggest offender of plastic waste, plastic water bottles are one of the biggest causes of ocean pollution. Statistics report that in the UK alone, 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year. Water is an abundant and natural resource, so with bottled water essentially being unethical and unnecessary, the thought of shipping water across the world seems absurd. What is our obsession with bottled water when we have a tap feeding unlimited amounts of water to our homes? Well, with water quality deteriorating due to pollution and sewage companies in the UK, many opt for bottled water under the misconception that it’s cleaner.

CanO Water is packaged in recyclable and sealable aluminium cans that can be recycled an infinite number of times, creating a plastic-free cycle. You can refill and reuse these cans of water as you please, making them convenient and eco-friendly. ‘Wave Goodbye to Plastic Pollution’ is an ocean clean-up campaign created by CanO Water to both make our seas cleaner while raising awareness of the looming crisis our oceans are facing. The campaign encouraged the public to post a ‘wave’ emoji 🌊 on CanO Water’s Instagram post, with each wave equivalent to removing 3.5 plastic bottles of plastic from beaches.

Fairfields Farm

Essex-based potato farmers, Fairfields Farm, are playing their own part in the fight to become more sustainable. Thanks to a packing facility, that is supplied daily with potatoes grown on the farm, their food miles are as low as possible, giving them low carbon footprint produce. 

They also use fertiliser from its renewable anaerobic digestion site for potato growth, which results in less carbon being released into the atmosphere. It also powers the potato cold stores with renewable energy from both solar power and its digestion site, which saves several thousand tonnes of carbon per year.

Their work has not gone unnoticed, as HelloFresh, the recipe delivery service, will be using the farm for their supply of potatoes. 

There are plenty of sustainable brands playing their part in creating a clean and safe planet for us. Make sure you do your research so that your money goes towards a greener future.