According to the Edelman Brand Relationship Index, the global average consumer-brand relationship score reaches just 38 out of a possible 100. The first-of-its-kind index, part of the Edelman Earned Brand 2016 study of 13,000 consumers in 13 countries, shines a light on an enormous unrealized opportunity for brands to build stronger consumer relationships that can lead to increased sales and protect against challenger disruption.
To realize the full potential of the consumer-brand relationship, brands must move consumers from being “Involved” with the brand to being fully “Committed,” the strongest relationship stage. The findings reveal that consumers who are “Committed” to a favorite brand will drive and protect its bottom line by buying first, staying loyal to, advocating for, and defending the brand. These stronger relationships provide significant benefits: 86 percent will adopt innovation more quickly; 87 percent will pay a premium price; 87 percent will recommend the brand through liking and sharing; and 88 percent will defend it against critics.
“The index confirms that marketers have done a good job getting consumers to preference and purchase, but consumers indicated they are willing to go deeper, to be committed in their brand relationships,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “The study shows when a consumer moves from a relationship rooted in ‘me’ to one powered by ‘we,’ a new world of buying and advocacy potential opens up for a brand.”
In order to create more “Committed” consumers, the marketing mix, with its long-standing reliance on paid media, must fundamentally change to include a greater proportion of peer and owned media. The study finds that “Interested” and “Involved” consumers (the early stages of the relationship) need paid strategies to spark awareness and consideration, but consumers in the deeper “Invested” and “Committed” stages consistently engage peer and owned media over paid. In fact, from the middle stage, “Involved,” to the most deeply “Committed” stage, a consumer’s use of both a brand’s owned media and peer conversations grows twice as fast as advertising: use of peer media grows 18 percentage points and use of owned grows 21 points, while paid grows by just 8 points. Committed relationships require greater brand interactivity, and committed consumers thirst for that interactivity.
“Commitment cannot be bought, it must be earned,” said Edelman. “We can quantify that a media mix favoring social and owned media is essential for cementing a committed relationship with a consumer. Conversations help create a community of interest—a virtuous circle of buying, advocating for, and defending a brand—that will protect and promote the brand.”
The biggest opportunity for brands to earn deeper relationships with consumers lies in addressing the three brand behaviors that scored the lowest on the Edelman Brand Relationship Index: Acts with purpose (33), Tells a memorable story (34), and Listens openly/responds selectively (35). While a majority of respondents (62 percent) said they will not buy a brand if it fails to meet its societal obligations, consumer belief in brands as their partners in social change is strong, with 55 percent agreeing brands can do more to solve societal ills than government. Brands must live up to these expectations by focusing on related strategies that entail collaboration, participation, shared values, and shared actions.
“Consumers are looking to brands to address their growing expectations, to step up and consistently take action with them on topics and issues they care about,” said Amanda Glasgow, U.S. Consumer Practice chair of Edelman. “It’s no longer about what brands do for you, it’s about what they do with you. It’s the difference between presenting consumers with a campaign and empowering them to join a movement. This is the way today’s brands become a meaningful presence in consumers’ lives and in the world.”
For more information about the Edelman Earned Brand 2016 study is available here.
Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm that partners with many of the world’s largest and emerging businesses and organizations, helping them evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Edelman was named one of Advertising Age’s “Agency to Watch” in 2014; one of Forbes’ “14 Most Influential Agencies of 2014”; and The Holmes Report’s “2013 Global Agency of the Year.” Edelman was awarded the Grand Prix Cannes Lion for PR in 2014 and was among Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” for the third time in 2014. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Intelligence (research) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, experiential), a joint venture with United Talent Agency.