By Elizabeth Cherian, EMEA Director, Wunderman Thompson Intelligence
As a society and industry, we are all aware of the harsh light the pandemic shines on our vulnerabilities. Over the last year we’ve witnessed increasing political polarisation, systemic injustice and the extremes of climate change. A recent study by Edelman shows that we’re losing trust in not just our governments, but in all aspects of society.
These challenges compound an already complex environment for brands to drive growth and relevancy. If there is one positive outcome from this year, it is a paradigm shift amongst an increasing number of brands that are establishing goals beyond their own commercial ends. They are setting their sights on larger societal issues and pursuing initiatives that inspire their consumers to create a better future. By nurturing positive change in their customers, they cultivate a healthier bottom line for themselves.
Why brands need to inspire to achieve growth
At Wunderman Thompson we recently launched The Inspiring Growth study which finds that 72% of customers want brands to be inspirational, however, only 53% of them experience brand inspiration, presenting a substantial “inspiration gap”. People want inspiration now more than ever.
We also found that those brands that are better at meeting this consumer demand are more likely to grow their market share and charge premium prices. In fact, Inspiration predicts 63% of the variation in consumer demand for brands, 52% of brands’ ability to command higher prices, and 48% of brands’ ability to convert customers at the point of purchase.
This compares favourably to the common marketing goal of awareness, which accounts for only 4% of price elasticity and 19% of market share. Put simply but in contrast to commonly held beliefs, growth is not just determined by whether people think of brands, but also by what they think of them. People reward those brands they consider to be inspirational by giving them their business.
Who is inspiring and how?
One good example of an inspirational brand is UK internet provider BT which has committed itself to closing the education deficit caused by COVID-19. Over the last year more than 1.5 billion students globally have been impacted by the pandemic as schools and universities have closed during lockdown, reports UNESCO. Rising to the challenge by creating digital education tools, BT joins Facebook, Google, IBM and Apple to form part of a growing number of forward-thinking brands that are stepping in to fill the gaps of a beleaguered education sector.
Dubbed ‘Brand Academy’ in our annual forecast, the Future 100 2021, this trend sees brands fight the problem bottom-up by circumventing traditional systems and providing people with the resources they need to thrive. Inspiring brands such as these are taking action to deliver experiences and create content that truly connects people to who they want to be and enables them to make progress towards their goals.
What do brands need to do: Three ways to inspire
To be inspirational, brands must focus on ways to connect with their audience and provide real value, whether that’s elevating people’s expectations, motivating action or drawing people towards a better future.
Inspiring brands are three things:
Elevating. By creating content that connects with consumers in a meaningful way, brands can help people change their mindsets and believe more is possible. This is something brands like Adobe have wielded effectively during the pandemic. Offering free online classes for Photoshop, Adobe empowers students to continue to hone their design chops despite the impediments COVID-19 has placed on education. An elevating brand demonstrates that it makes people’s lives better and really cares for its customers.
Magnetic. Brands that take a stand and act as leaders create a buzz and often find people are drawn towards them. Google ranks high for inspiring consumers due to not only its courage to hold the line on issues that matter to the organization, but also its great success story, founded in a garage and transforming into a multi-billion-dollar company. A magnetic brand stimulates our imaginations and take us along with them on their journey.
Motivating. Our research shows customers want brands to help them discover new things and ideas. Always one to shake things up in the music industry, Apple launched “At Home With Apple Music” last year when most of the world was in lockdown. Organizing FaceTime group chats with artists from their homes was a unique way to deliver much needed entertainment and bring people together. A motivating brand shakes things up with new ideas that spark action from people.
A look to the future
In order to thrive despite these challenging times, brands need to place inspiration at the heart of their marketing strategies. Statistically more likely to grow their market share and charge premium prices, inspiring brands act like magnets drawing their customers in, elevate aspirations, and motivate people into action. The power of inspiration is a huge opportunity; those that harness it effectively will stand a chance of surviving whatever is to come from 2021 and beyond.