Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to combat Brand Inertia in the age of ‘choice fatigue’

by Estelle Boon, Head of Consumer Brands at Grayling

The 21st century has gifted us with an unparalleled abundance of choices. In the realm of consumer goods, from food to electronics, and even in the digital landscape, where a multitude of apps vie for our attention, the options are endless. This freedom of choice was once seen as a positive, a reflection of progress and putting control in the hands of the individual. However, this plethora of options has inadvertently led to the consumer trend of Brand Inertia. 

With so many brands now vying for our attention, added to the feeling that we’re living in a state of permacrisis with the rising cost of living, navigating misinformation and trying to make sense of the ever evolving technological leaps in our daily lives, is it any wonder that consumers have become hyper-fatigued by certain brand communications and are now actively choosing not to choose? 

Grayling’s agency network is well established across the UK, meaning we have a deeper connection with our audiences and are able to pick up on attitude shifts much earlier. After seeing a number of indicators, we utilised our proprietary brand diagnostic tool, Advantage Analytics, to get a deeper understanding of whether consumers were actually suffering from brand burnout and whether their behaviours were changing or stagnating. 

Our research showed that 61% of consumers often find themselves overwhelmed, causing apathy and, ironically, fostering a desire to stick with what they know with 43% saying that they often repurchase a product even if they aren’t happy with it, just because it’s familiar. Some established brands may see this as a positive, but ultimately this hurts market competitiveness as well as a brands ability to grow their audience and their bottom line. 

So are there any positive opportunities in this scenario for brands to act on? The good news is, there definitely are. However, brand managers and communicators need to ask themselves the following key questions:

Is our brand identity genuinely distinctive? A remarkable 75% of respondents feel that brands within the same sector are indistinguishable and 64% of those surveyed engage more with brands that possess a personality and stand for something. This compels us to assess the clarity and uniqueness of our brand identity.

Is our brand content resonating? The data highlights that more than half of consumers are deleting brand emails and texts while two thirds are disinterested in traditional advertising, newsletters and blogs. This isn’t to suggest old formats and trusted methods are dead, but one size simply doesn’t fit all. 

Are we forming genuine connections with consumers? A significant 56% of consumers can’t recall a single brand they feel connected to or that truly understands them. For FMCG brands, this prompts a revaluation of their ability to build meaningful associations and experiences.

If brands feel they are falling short on any of the above, then three strategic recommendations will emerge as a result: 

Firstly, focus on Brand Identity. Brands can enhance their position by clarifying and distinguishing their value compared to their competition. Authenticity is crucial in a trust-driven landscape, so it’s important to integrate a brand’s purpose to genuinely avoid superficial messaging.

Secondly, elevate your brand by borrowing equity. FMCG brands permeate everyday life in a way that strategic partnerships and authentic associations regularly deliver ROI. Co-branded collaborations and budget-friendly alliances offer exciting opportunities to reach and ratify audiences in an effective way.

And third, review your branded content. Cut through content overload with a tailored, audience-first approach to assets and channels. Invest in measurement and maximise what works.   

When you factor in the power that SEO and social media algorithms have had on people’s media consumption in the last few years, leading to them not seeing the homepages or front pages of their favourite media and instead only reading or watching content that relates to their interests and search behaviours, then it’s even more important that brands fight against Brand Inertia and look for ways to elevate themselves out of this trend using the strategies above. 

Brand Inertia can trap consumers in a bubble of missed opportunities. By sticking to what they know, consumers risk missing out on novel and potentially better experiences. However, it’s down to brands to make sure that audiences don’t remain stuck in this cycle and proactively look at ways to reinforce their identity, foster connections, and embrace audience-centric strategies, so they can navigate the challenges posed by Brand Inertia and gain a real advantage over their competitors.

Find out more by signing up to the ‘Creating Advantage in An Age of Brand Inertia’ live webinar on 13th September at 12pm.