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Why brands must be human to the core to thrive and break through the noise

A growing polarisation of debate this year, often enabled by technology has left the UK longing for stability, but are we likely to see this in 2020? The rise of the digital age has vastly changed the way in which UK consumers are interacting with brands.

WE’s Brands in Motion 2019 global study[1] of over 3,700 UK consumers and B2B decision-makers highlights that while we are living in a deeply polarised nation, consumers want brands to use technology responsibly; they want less division and more unity. The speed of technology advancement is offering brands an exciting opportunity to understand and unite consumers, now more than ever.

The study is calling for brands to push past the polarities and connect with consumers on a deeper level. In the wake of a digital-first world, brands now need to show their human side — show that they understand their customers, are doing good in their communities and in the world at large.

Human to the core

With consumer expectations constantly rising and the demand for brands to keep up, one strategy seems to hold the key to long-lasting consumer love: putting people at the centre of everything.

In a rapidly changing digital world, consumers crave a connection deeper than the tech itself. They not only have high expectations for tech functionality, they have high expectations for how technology will enable them to lead richer and fuller lives.

The UK saw that 61% of respondents feel technology lets them learn about a wide range of topics, and 61% believe it liberates their workstyle. On the flip side thought, 64% feel that change in technology is happening too fast. Technology may improve the way we work and live, but this doesn’t change humans wanting balance and stability and knowing the familiar. Brands can relay certain emotion and comfort, that we can relate to at different intersections of our lives, maintaining this value is core to ensuring your brand stays relevant.  

Technology driven by ethics  

Consumers are still looking for brands to lead with authentic purpose and match their ethos. 69% of UK respondents expect brands to take a stand on important issues. These attitudes are driven by a new era of expectation and a push for accountability from all sides. With life-changing technology comes the responsibility to use it safely and ethically. 97% agreed that companies have a responsibility to use technology ethically.

43% of UK consumers now expect brands to use technology to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and significantly, in the UK, 70% (versus 53% globally) of respondents want to see brands be involved in both improving local communities as well as tackling global environmental issues, the highest globally.

What does this mean for brands

Consumers are unified on the good, the bad and the possibilities that technology represents, and both expectations for technology and the drive for accountability are higher than ever. How should brands satisfy all these needs, help their customers lead more fulfilling lives and make the world a better place?

Here are four opportunities that Brands in Motion 2019 identified

1.       Stand up for consumers in a human and authentic manner

Consumers want to see brands providing stability and speaking out about important issues. Being human to the core is what can help connect brands and their consumers.

2.       Empower your customers

63% of UK respondents say they educate themselves about new forms of technology. Consumers know what they want and they know what’s best for them, so give them the products, tools and choices they need to enrich their lives, and empower them to maximise their experience.

3.       Understand your product or service’s societal impacts

As a sceptical Gen Z increases its buying power, understanding your product’s negative impacts — both short-term and long-term — and allaying fears will be more vital than ever.

4.       Take local action

70% of UK consumers want to see brands doing good at both local and global levels. Balancing brand purpose across both local and global issues in the UK will continue to increase trust and credibility for UK brands in the eyes of consumers.

[1] Brands in Motion is an annual global study conducted in partnership with YouGov that quantifies how consumers think about major market forces, industries and brands across eight global markets.