—By Mindi Chahal
Sustained exposure to brand messages means people in developed countries are switching off, according to a global study.
People in countries with long established consumer spending power feel less connected to brands than those in emerging markets, says recent research by Momentum Worldwide.
More than half of those surveyed in Britain, Japan and the US report indifference towards some of the best-known brands in the market, for example McDonald’s and Apple.
“Brand fatigue exists, especially when brands just copy and paste the above-the-line marketing campaign into the social sphere and expect it to resonate,” says Sam Thomson, UK brand and values director at The Body Shop.
“The days of top-down brand preaching are extremely numbered; it’s key to be in step with consumers’ lifestyles and ensure that the content at each touch point is relevant to this.”
The research asked more than 6,500 respondents across nine markets to classify their feelings towards well-known brands in terms of relationships (see methodology, below).
Over half (54 per cent) of those in Britain consider brands as only ‘an acquaintance’ and a similar emotional distance was reported in Japan (55 per cent) and the US (45 per cent).
Momentum UK director of insight and strategy Matthew Gidley says: “In more developed consumer economies, people’s priorities have changed. As global brands become more accessible to a greater variety of people, fewer people are using them as status symbols or emblems to demonstrate their own success. Instead, they expect these brands to open up an honest and authentic dialogue upon which they can build their own stories.”
In the UK, only 15 per cent would consider brands as ‘a member of the family’. Similarly, in Japan, which tops the list of nations where affection for brands is low, only 13 per cent hold a similar affection.
This is in contrast with emerging economies such as Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines where more than a third of those questioned would consider brands as a member of their own family.
“This is largely because in emerging markets, people are discovering brands,” says Nick Ambridge, senior brand manager at Belvedere Vodka. “The UK is an advanced market in terms of brands, trends and products, and we often see things faster than many developing countries.”
Ambridge adds: “In the UK there are a lot more line extensions for brands and a lot more innovation than in other markets.”
The research also reveals a clear waning in brand affection among the millennial generation. Globally, those who see brands as the closest to them are aged between 25 and 31, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents considering brands as ‘a family member or significant other’. This drops by five percentage points in the sought-after 18 to 24 age bracket.
The Body Shop’s #SelfiEsteem campaign linked core values with teenagers’ online habit of posting selfies
Yahoo research director for Northern Europe Patrick Hourihan says: “When communicating with the Gen Z audience in particular, brands must talk the talk. Messaging needs to be authentic, engaging and consistent across all brand channels in order to stay relevant.”
On its Yahoo Celebrity pages, the brand takes care to ensure that the language and tone of voice on the site is like “talking to friends”.
The Body Shop’s Thomson says: “The fact that brand affection among 18- to 24-year-olds is on the wane feels symptomatic of the broader trend for having extremely high levels of engagement but in a superficial way – lots of acquaintances yet far fewer real “friends”. The challenge is building loyalty with this group through relevant and engaging content that fits with their lifestyle and interests.”
Product extension is an approach that Burton’s Biscuit Company took last year to keep the Maryland brand fresh for consumers. It used extensive research insights to bring the Gooeys cookie to market, asking consumers to inform the new product development.
“Even the most well-known brands need to refresh their offer on a regular basis,” says Burton’s chief commercial officer Stuart Wilson. “Research shows that millennials are even more likely to suffer from brand fatigue than previous generations, so brands need to be responsive to changing preferences and the increasingly competitive context.”
The Momentum study asked respondents to score brands based on how authentic they think the brand is among their peers and social networks. There was an 89 per cent positive correlation between brands that are seen as most authentic and brands which people would consider part of their family.
As headline sponsor of the Teenage Cancer Trust concert series, The Body Shop ran a campaign called #SelfiEsteem to engage consumers in an authentic way. One of the company’s founding core values is to activate self-esteem, which also fitted with its audience’s online habit of posting selfies on Twitter and Instagram.
The brand invited its followers to send pictures using the hashtag #SelfiEsteem in return for a £1 donation to Teenage Cancer Trust and beauty bloggers also attended gigs to activate the campaign where people could submit their selfies.
Creative agency Mr. President also created a film for the partnership, which ran during the concert series at the Royal Albert Hall in March this year, featuring young cancer patients among the cast.
Chris Weil, chairman and chief executive officer of Momentum Worldwide, believes the research is “a wake-up call to marketers across the world that brands must evolve with their audiences”.
Weil adds: “The modern consumer’s demand for authentic connections makes the ability to create individual, personalised experiences a higher priority than ever. In broadening our definition of experience, and how we curate and connect the digital and physical aspects of today’s world, brands should drive shared participation and real relationships through total brand experiences.”
With the research showing that extensive exposure to brand messages is causing fatigue, creating authentic experiences for consumers should help refresh interest.
However, brands should not repeat marketing messages across TV, print and online channels.
Gidley at Momentum says: “Taking one piece of creative and one message and slapping it across all touch points is just not going to work. You have to diagnose the use scenarios of all of the different channels and touch points and bespoke the message accordingly.”