Value Exchange More Important Than Ever

Edelman’s second annual brandshare™ study highlights a costly gap in the value exchange between consumers and brands. Despite brands’ increasing focus on engagement as their central marketing principle, more than two-thirds of people believe their relationship with brands is one-sided and driven exclusively by brands’ profit motives. Despite this stark and skeptical view of brands, people want a broader and more multidimensional relationship with brands, and reward brands that deliver it.

People expect brands to act with conviction, invite consumers’ active participation and to be actively responsive to consumer input and queries. And, expectations are rising fast.

Consider the changes in consumer expectations over the intervening twelve months between brandshare 2013 and this year’s study:

  1. Responsive to people’s concerns and complaints: 78 percent of respondents in our 2014 brandshare™ study indicate that responding quickly to consumer questions is an important component of their relationship with brands. That’s considerably higher than only half of our 2013 respondents who stated that “listening and responding thoughtfully” is important. This points to the rising imperative of real-time responsiveness in the value exchange.
  2. Invites people to participate in the development and refinement of products and services: 52 percent of consumers think it’s important, a 15-percent increase from those who identified testing products, collaborating on design and providing feedback as valuable in 2013. While it is true that most consumers won’t ever submit an idea for a product, beta-test software or customize merchandise online to their liking, increasingly consumers expect brands to invite this level of participation and reward brands that do.
  3. Communicates transparently about how products are sourced and manufactured: With 68 percent of participants citing this as an important component of their relationship with brands, consumers’ ability to understand what they are buying and how it’s made is an important part of their brand decision calculus. It’s becoming more top-of-mind for consumers, considering that 54 percent cited its importance in last year’s study, representing a 26-percent rise in importance.

Here's the new brand playbook: realize that people want to be part of your brand and that the more you let them in, the more they'll purchase your product and recruit other consumers on your behalf. Recognize that the value exchange is not a linear path, but rather a kinetic one where each brand and consumer interaction begets others that add value to the relationship.

Jennifer Cohan president of Edelman New York.