This social life

Why you can’t have brand purpose without social insight

Pop quiz.

Why does your organisation exist?

You can recite your company’s “why” easily, can’t you?

For today’s consumers, a brand’s values and beliefs matter. A recent study found as many as 82% of consumers make purchase decisions with purpose in mind. So, to build a strong brand, you need to identify, embody, and articulate – what your brand stands for besides making money.

This is how you connect with that 82%.

Brands struggle to put purpose into practice. Only 11% reportedly manage. Which is odd, as they’ve never had as much customer data at their fingertips.

So, what’s going wrong? Why aren’t brands able to meet the deeper needs of their customers?

It all comes down to a fundamental truth: the way that most brands find out about the world (surveys and focus groups) is flawed. The traditional approach is heavily biased towards what you want to know – not what your audience cares about.

This means you’re not able to listen as well as you should, so you can’t hear how important purpose is to your customers or where to direct it.

So, instead stead of a considered, thoughtful and reflective commitment to what matters, we get the old enemies – tokenism, apathy and lip service.

Consumers are savvy. ‘Purpose signalling’ is easily spotted and dismissed.  What was meant to connect only serves to push your customers further away.

And so, it goes. The vicious circle continues.

This is how you can break it.

Social media analysis helps you understand how your customers really view brand purpose and the role it plays in purchase decisions – without any prompters, lab coats or dashboards. Helping you win the battle against lip service.

New vs. Old market research

Lots of businesses get brand purpose wrong because they use traditional market research that informs them what the problem is – not how to solve it. Just compare our qualitative research on sustainability – today’s brand purpose par excellence – with Kantar’s.

  • While we took to social media to explore how people described their behaviour around climate change, they surveyed more than 1,000 people in over 10 countries in Asia and Europe.
  • Their focus was on documenting consumer attitudes. They did not examine the contexts and needs that motivated consumers.
  • Kantar concluded that people weren’t willing to do more for the planet because they “felt proud of what I am currently doing” (74%), “There isn’t agreement among experts on the best solutions” (72%), and “I need more resources and equipment from public authorities” (69%).
  • They also found that 57% of respondents said that reducing waste and increasing recycling was “very important”, along with reversing deforestation (54%), protecting endangered animal species (52%), building energy-efficient buildings (47%), and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy (45%).

These responses are handy, but they simply don’t explain how and why consumers make lifestyle changes in response to climate change. We find that this survey (and many others like it) don’t give enough depth to direct businesses. They don’t answer why customer’s feel the way they do or where companies should look for opportunities to inspire climate action.

Our work, on the other hand, focused on causes.

  • We looked to social media to investigate what makes people change their behaviour when confronted with the realities of climate change.
  • By reading into the emotions, experiences and real-world context that drives people’s attitudes and behaviours (the why), we could see how brands can motivate consumer action.
  • We saw how businesses can create sustainable offerings that people truly want to buy based on their motivation level, their interests and their lifestyle – whether that is conveniently buying groceries without the plastic wrappings or topping up their reusable coffee cup before their commute to work.

So to find out what your people want you to do about sustainability and climate action, you need true social insight. In-depth, qualitative social insight that answers the ‘why’ and the ‘how’, rather than just stating the ‘what’. This gives you the certainty you need to navigate and meet consumers’ expectations.

Social insight to keep lip service at bay

Without more comprehensive social insight, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. We don’t know which signals to act on and we end up hedging ours bets by doing the minimum, alienating customers in the process. You’ve heard the stories.

Brands being called out for capitalising on political and cultural moments with self-promotion – so-called “woke washing”. The fashion giant Boohoo, for instance, came out in strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement, only to breach the Modern Slavery Act one year later for underpaying their workers.

Brands that don charitable half-truths to make themselves seem environmentally friendly – so-called “greenwashing”. Take a classic example. While touting its cars’ low-emissions and eco-friendly features in marketing campaigns, Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests. They fitted various cars with devices that could detect if was undergoing testing and altered the performance to reduce the emissions levels accordingly. The engines were, in fact, emitting up to 40 times the allowed limit.

Without putting purpose into practice, brands are accused of hypocrisy and “purpose signalling” by today’s switched-on consumers. So use social insight to walk it like you talk it.

People want more from brands.

Newer social insight methodologies can help you understand the underlying issues, concerns, hopes and ambitions of a market – so you can align your purpose with audience expectations.

Traditional market research methodologies can no longer provide the direction that brands need to navigate consumer expectations, leaving them to get it wrong. The one-size-fits-all approach can, at best, tell you what brand purpose your audience wants to see – not how to implement it. Your brand is then at risk of succumbing to the cardinal sin of lip service.

So rise to the challenge and use newer, more comprehensive social media insight.

Because acting on purpose is what builds authenticity and trust and gets today’s consumers to buy in – both figuratively and literally.

 

By Louise Alestam 

 

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