Is the Value Exchange Between Brands and Consumers a Myth?

version of this post initially appeared on Logic + Emotion

Imagine taking a trip to New York City. As always, it’s crowded and bustling but it’s also a nice day. You want to get around and see the sights, but the idea of waiting on a corner to land a taxi or spending a portion of your day underground don’t appeal to you. You’re active and enjoy finding ways to incorporate exercise in your day. You come across a bike sharing station with blue bikes and an interactive kiosk that helps you decide where you should go next. You use your credit card to obtain a bike and you’re off, feeling a sense of empowerment that you’ve taken matters into your own hands and maybe even a little satisfaction that you’re not contributing to the noise or other pollution as you pedal through the streets. Your needs get met, but you’re also meeting the needs of the brand (Citi*) who helped put the bikes there in the first place. You’ve entered a value exchange with that brand whether you know it or not.

Edelman’s 2014 brandshare study, serves up some timely insights on the evolving relationship between consumers and brands. We asked people to evaluate the importance of 14 brand behaviors and evaluate how effectively a selection of brands perform on those behaviors. The business outcomes we evaluated are: likelihood to purchase, recommend or defend a brand; propensity to share branded content with their own social networks; and willingness to share their personal data with a brand. We also queried respondents about nine consumer need states to more holistically understand the relationship between brand behaviors and the fulfillment of these needs.

There’s Little Value in Today’s Value Exchange Between Consumers and Brands

That was the over-arching theme of the study. While brands likely feel like they are delivering value to consumers beyond the understood transactional relationship (you buy our stuff and we make sure you buy it again), the people we surveyed across the globe are indicating it’s not enough. 87 percent of the respondents polled indicated they want more meaningful relationships with brands but only 17 percent feel like brands deliver. But what I thought was really interesting was a related data point, which we asked the following question in connection to specific industries:

“Do brands ask for your personal information, so they can provide you something tangible in return, or for their own financial gain?”

The results to this question is underwhelming for brands across industry — in an age where brands are in need of data from the people who purchase their products and services, consumers largely feel that brands are benefiting more than they are. As the above chart shows, some industries have better footing than others in this area (food, CPG) but none are exempt from the sentiment.

Take a “brand” like Facebook (yes you can debate if it’s a brand or not — I believe it is) whose business model relies almost exclusively on the data “users” provide it every time they engage with it, not to mention the jackpot of data we provide Facebook when we create a profile. We can debate how we feel about how Facebook’s intent for that data, but there’s little debate about the value exchange in using Facebook every day to connect with friends and business associates and its value as a newsfeed. Every day we log onto Facebook is a validation for the “brand” that there’s value in the value exchange that exists between it and us.

There were many more insights in the study that span from what consumers value most and least and how their needs are met not only from an emotional and rational perspective, but also from a societal lens as well.

David Armano is global strategy director, key accounts.

Robble

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