Living through the most dramatic period of upheaval in recent history, today’s consumers have the same expectation of brands to provide them with stability as they do their own friends and family networks. Be it the relentless strain of the pandemic to which we can all relate, political instability or societal pressures and transformations taking place at break-neck speed, this is no doubt the year that people are turning to brands to provide some sense of much-needed security. In fact, WE Communications’ latest Brands In Motion report, The Bravery Mandate, shows consumer expectations for brands to provide stability has risen an enormous 30% in just over a year.
In saying this however, whilst the expectations continue to rise, the perceived impact remains flat. Audiences want brands to help, but aren't convinced that they're actually delivering.
Consumers expect brands to be brave and bold in their purpose. Authenticity is absolutely critical and consumers, both b2b and b2c decision makers are growing increasingly sceptical of a brand’s motives when it comes to ‘purposeful’ work.
Brands need to be tuned in, listening carefully to all their stakeholders and paying specific and careful attention to the needs and sentiment of their employees. Internal audiences are leading the charge on their expectations of leadership to embrace the historically ‘hard conversations’ and take a stand on societal issues. Leaders need to be brave, no matter how difficult it may be to discuss and invite conversation around complex societal issues. They need to pick a lane regarding the issues they ‘care about’ and be consistent in driving a narrative around this – being all things to everyone is not a sustainable or believable option. The expectation for brands to be clear and articulate about what matters most to them and do the right thing is at an all-time high.
So, where does this leave us as agencies working to support our clients through this period of unremitting expectations. The role of PR and communication agencies (frankly any agency/ client partnership) is pivotal in this ecosystem. Just as we are working hand-in-hand with our clients to navigate the complexities surrounding the role of their brands in society, and naturally how this is communicated to their respective audiences, so too is the responsibility on us as agencies to ensure we are aligned with the values of the clients we represent. Central to these partnerships between agency and client is ensuring we are asking the right questions, and that we are comfortable with the behaviour of the brand. Do we support what the brand stands for and importantly are we aligned with its values? In the absence of some or all of these factors, it may mean walking away from a lucrative opportunity, pushing back and standing up and saying ‘no’ when a line is crossed.
There is a responsibility on agencies, as extended custodians, to play our part in a brand showing up authentically and giving it the best chance to truly generate the trust it requires from its consumers. This trust after all sets a critical platform for the brand’s sustained performance and success. But so too is there an ethical responsibility of agencies to be brave and bold, take a stand and know when to walk away, if we are to remain true to our purpose.
#PRethics. #WEBrandsinMotion #MoreofThis