Bad news for brands: according to ad agency Havas’ latest Meaningful Brands survey, which this year polled over 350,000 individuals in 31 countries, consumers wouldn’t care if more than three-quarters (77%) of the brands on a list of 1,800 simply disappeared.
It’s the highest percentage the firm has ever seen in the decade it has been conducting such a study, offering evidence of widespread consumer disloyalty that many executives and marketers lament.
So how can companies encourage consumers to care about their brands? Here are five suggestions.
Focus on product innovation
Companies can no longer depend on their brands alone to differentiate themselves from the competition. Instead, if they want consumers to care about them, brands need to show that they care about consumers.
One of the best ways to do this is through product innovation. By constantly focusing on the ways that they can improve existing products and create new ones that deliver increased value to consumers, brands can increase the likelihood that they become indispensable to their customers.
Procter & Gamble is one of a growing number of major brands aiming to do just that. As P&G’s Chief Research, Development and Innovation Officer Kathy Fish recently explained, the CPG giant, which participated in the CES show for the first time ever this year, has oriented itself to “creating the products consumers want, often before they even know they want them.”
That requires P&G to rethink its current products and imagine new products that take advantage of new technologies to meet customer needs.
Don’t under-utilize performance marketing
All too often, big brands waste dollars on marketing campaigns that are branding-focused and not held to a high ROI standard. While the fact that large numbers of consumers could do without the vast majority of brands doesn’t mean that branding isn’t important, it does highlight the importance of performance marketing campaigns.
By allocating adequate dollars to campaigns intended to drive sales, brands can ensure that they’re not missing the forest for the trees. After all, at the end of the day, brands aren’t marketing their brands for branding’s sake.
Look for ways to embrace the current environment
Brands might not find it ideal that large numbers of consumers don’t care that much for brands, but this does create silver linings for brands willing to embrace the world as it exists.
For example, the current dynamic gives many companies the opportunity to experiment with new products and services that aren’t even directly associated with their existing brands.
This type of activity is being seen in a number of industries including financial services, where big banks are eyeing the launch of their own challenger banks to better serve specific new or existing customer segments.
Target the competition
While it makes sense for brands to find ways to capitalize on the current environment, it also makes sense for them to seek strong differentiation.
In short, brands cannot assume that their brands are so strong that their value proposition vis-a-vis the competition is forever cemented in the minds of consumers. Instead, they need to remind them in meaningful ways and sometimes the best way to do that is to strategically target their competitors.
Take, for instance, AB InBev’s Super Bowl ad for Bud Light, which called attention to the fact that two of competitor Molson Coors Brewing’s beers use corn syrup. The ad has bothered Molson Coors so much that a beer industry alliance is reportedly in jeopardy.
But even so, AB InBev’s ad was a good one because instead of simply trying to entertain — a common pitfall of Super Bowl ads — it brought into focus for consumers one of the ways Bud Light is arguably superior to products from a major competitor.
Attach the brand to meaningful causes
Large numbers of consumers, particularly young consumers, place importance on what brands “stand for” when they make purchasing decisions. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Cone Communications, a whopping 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a brand is aligned to a cause they care about.
History has demonstrated that brands must tread very carefully when it comes to thorny political and social issues, but when they align themselves with causes thoughtfully, it can help brands forge stronger bonds with their customers.
These bonds won’t necessarily guarantee absolute brand loyalty, but they can go a long way towards building a level of brand affinity that can, with the help of the above, keep consumers from viewing them as totally dispensable.