Brands are never far away – on any given journey you pass billboards, posters on the train, even brand names and logos plastered across clothes & shoes. The world is awash with their presence; and they all mean something to somebody, somewhere. But what makes some brands successful, and others flounder?
On the face of it, brands are in a symbiotic relationship with their consumers, regardless of the category they are in. Brands need people; people need brands. But is that relationship really on equal terms? Are brands the driving force, shepherding their flock using carefully constructed brand planning, or are they at the whim of consumers who relentlessly vote with their feet?
The tide has turned away from brands holding all the power, and dictating to the consumer. The information age has rapidly led to a reversal where consumers can be more knowledgeable instantly and more demanding of quality –the products themselves and the service that precede and follows after purchase.
“Love me, love me… say that you love me… I can’t care ’bout anything but you…” Nina Persson, singer.
Winning consumers over to your brand is tougher than it has ever been before. Once you’ve won them over, you then have to battle to keep them, and make them as loyal as possible. The influence that a brand can exert is critical to its success. But influence is an outcome of other more tangible elements that a brand can impact.
Ipsos’ Influential Brands research has identified five key pillars that contribute to overall influence: having Presence, being Leading Edge, Trustworthy, demonstrating Engagement, and Corporate Citizenship.
The pillars themselves do not determine how much influence a brand has, they simply explain a brand’s personality – so how each brand derives the influence it has (and not the fundamental level of influence).
Not only are these pillars important to building influence but also drive trial of products – meeting a need, and doing it differently (and better) than the competition. Brands must be both relevant to the consumer, and also to differentiate from their competition.
The British top 50 shows us an interesting insight into what is currently important to consumers:
Only icons need apply
The more traditional global “brands” are present – as seen by the appearance of PepsiCo (#46); Kellogg’s (#30) and Heinz (#21). Media and entertainment brands are represented, with Sky #28, Channel 4 and Disney, demonstrating that only brands that have iconic status in the British consumers’ eyes appear.
Communication is key: Mobile services providers are present (O2, #44; Orange, #42) as are the manufacturers of the devices such as Blackberry (#32). Ipsos has also seen this trend as mobile is helping us explore consumers in ways that feel less like research and more like real life with Ipsos’ AppLife discussion platform. Our app allows consumers to share their current, real life experiences with moderators and other consumers, with the consumer comfortable and in context from being in their own environments. As a result, the quality of consumer insights is enhanced.
“A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.” ~Author Unknown
The internet, together with technology & service providers that create easy access are now central to consumers day-to-day lives, so it will perhaps be no surprise that consumers have rated brands from this category highly. Being able to satisfy relevant new consumer needs has driven monumental growth of technology brands, particularly when they are able to give consumer something that they never knew they needed in the first place.
The Information age has also built strong influence for brands that exist as digital resources and gateways. When they are able to score highly on ”making life more interesting”, “changed what I do in my life” and “encouraged you to make better decisions” it’s clear consumers are now accustomed to seeking information and using that every day. The digital experience is now intrinsic to any brand, and making the shift from online to bricks & mortar retail needs to be seamless from a consumer’s perspective.
Credit cards have evolved to suit online life
“In banking the British public have accepted horrendous service for a long time” Metro bank founder and chairman Vernon Hill
The banking and financial sector is most noticeable by the absence of brands in the top 50. Barclays are the only bank to make an appearance (#50), and beyond that the only other financial brands present in the Ipsos Top 50 are Visa and Mastercard. When trust is a key component of influence, it’s no surprise that the traditional banks have struggle to positively impact consumer – trust and corporate citizenship suffering heavily.
Both Visa and Mastercard have benefitted from the increase in online sales. Whilst consumers can still choose to use a normal debit card, the additional security benefits provided by the likes of Visa drive the consumer trust protecting consumers from online fraud, non-delivery, incorrect delivery, damage and even protection from travel companies / airlines going bust. Additional security layers are provided by both to protect customers with a password for online purchases. Overall the support of transactions for online purchases keeps the brands relevant, important to consumers today, with a high level of presence and also rated well for “having a strong future”.
What sets Visa apart from Mastercard is the depth of sponsorship. Both have corporate deals with sport, but Visa has a greater scale – Olympic sponsorship, including the monopoly on ticket sales; and also significant football sponsorship: “possessing exclusive rights in the financial services product category for all FIFA World Cup™ activities around the world. Amongst its competition this has given Visa a distinct edge in consumers’ eyes with stronger “seen everywhere” scores generating higher presence.
Consumers have taken the power back – loyalty and levels of engagement can change rapidly. Consumers have the means to give immediate feedback via reviews or direct to customer service teams, and with a transparent platform for consumers to see what other consumers think, consensus can change overnight or even more rapidly than that. Overall the adage of “give them what they want” remains true – be relevant, be different and evolve or become extinct.
The Influential Brands study from Ipsos reveals the five key dimensions that explain the influence that global brands wield, helping clients understand and engage the powers of influence that affect their identity. To learn more about these five dimensions and how they relate to your brands, please join our breakfast event at 08:30am, May 15th 2013. Click here for more details.