Changing Lives, Changing Behaviour and the Implications for Brands

by | 1 Jul, 2021 | General, The Brands Blog

The last year has brought big changes in how brands get their products to market and maintain their brand relevance, but it also has seen changes in the broader priorities and behaviour of brands, retailers and consumers.听 Not just buying and selling behaviour, but also broader societal priorities such as sustainability, environmental issues and diversity, have seen remarkable shifts during the past year.听 These changes were discussed at a 91猫先生 鈥淐hanging Lives, Changing Behaviour and the Implications for Brands鈥, the second of two in the series Don鈥檛 Panic! How Brands Can Thrive in Chaos and chaired by Rita Clifton CBE, Deputy Chairman of The John Lewis Partnership.听

How has consumer behaviour changed?

Online sales to consumers increased by 50% last year, according to .听 Richard Chataway, CEO of , told the meeting, 鈥淲hat that means is that those brands that are well-equipped to deal with that, and have built great digital experiences for customers, obviously stand to benefit.鈥

Some brands have even been helping consumers make the transition to digital services, even though the consumer initially might have been resistant or not know how to do so.听 BVA Nudge has been working with a savings bank whose customer service reps encourage customers who ring the bank鈥檚 call centre to use their digital services, and then help the customers get onto the bank鈥檚 website and talk them through how to navigate the service.

鈥淚t would be a mistake to think that people have really changed fundamentally,鈥 said Chataway, 鈥渂ut some of the circumstances 鈥 contextual environmental factors that are a big influence on our behaviour 鈥 have changed a lot over the last 18 months鈥.听 That means that making those experiences good and easy for people is even more important.鈥

How have brands鈥 behaviours changed?

Given that many retailers rationalised and reduced their product ranges over the last year, brands have had to work harder and differently with retailers to keep their products on-shelf, to introduce new products and to get those products in front of consumers.

Amelia Harvey, Co-founder at , said that launching new innovations has been challenging, because there have not been as many opportunities or slots on-shelf, and the time to prove success has become shorter and shorter.听 鈥淏rands can go in and have probably less than 12 weeks to prove a point, and then they’re in or out.鈥

The Collective鈥檚 strategy has been to push big retailers hard to offer a number of different flavours from their range, and the company has worked to get their products in front of consumers in new physical and digital ways.听 For example, when The Collective launched a new plant-based yoghurt range during lockdown, they partnered with Deliveroo and Uber Eats 鈥渢o put our plant launch out there with other vegetarian or vegan deliveries,鈥 said Harvey. 聽鈥淲e’ve had to really pivot and think about different ways to get the products in front of the consumer to taste.鈥

How are brands dealing with broader societal issues?

Brands have become more aware and more vocal about important issues in society, not necessarily leading public campaigns on such initiatives themselves but often being supportive both internally and publicly.

鈥淏rands can definitely have a credible role in helping here,鈥 said James Parnum, Managing Partner, Head of Planning at .听 鈥淭hey can help you eat better, buy better, travel better, protect nature, waste less packaging. We鈥檙e starting to see some really good examples.鈥澛 Some notable companies and initiatives highlighted by Parnum and others at the meeting included:

  • Tesco, which has been working towards zero food-waste, installing electric chargers in car parks, partnering with the , and pushing suppliers to be accredited by on such issues as sustainable practices, carbon footprint, employee practices, and community impact.
  • Selfridges, which has its 鈥攁 long-term commitment to sustainable shopping, a lower carbon footprint and even a sustainable media plan.
  • Numerous brands that together on social media, particularly Instagram, have supported the Black Lives Matters movement鈥檚 Blackout Tuesday.

鈥淚 think sometimes when the brands are leading these conversations, that’s going to fall on slightly deaf ears,鈥 said Parnum.听 On social media in particular, he said, it is often the case that brands are following and working with consumers in discussing these issues rather than leading the debate.

Are consumers making brands decisions based on sustainability, diversity and other societal commitments?

Do these bigger societal issues drive consumer behaviour with respect to brands鈥 products?聽 鈥淭here is a group of consumers who truly will make choices on the basis of some of these higher order, more charitable benefits,鈥 said Kerry Cavanaugh, Business Unit Director at .听 鈥淏ut the truth is that time and again, candidly, there’s more of a self-interest among consumers.鈥

Cavanaugh had discussed this with the chief marketing officer at MasterCard which has undertaken a lot of consumer studies over the years. In summary, these find that 鈥淕reed beats philanthropy every time.鈥 That is, product preferences and price are still the principal drivers for consumers.

Cavanaugh believes that 鈥渋t’s a more question of what we as companies believe is the right thing to do鈥.听 He cited Mars鈥 own initiatives in using wind power in the UK, and in securing 70% of the total energy it uses in the UK from sustainable sources.听 Galaxy puts 10% of its profits back into the communities from which it sources and Maltesers launched a new campaign on maternal mental health with Comic Relief this year.

鈥淲e鈥檙e not a charity, we’ve got to make money,鈥 said Cavanaugh. 鈥淎nd then with making money, we can actually do more with that. We can make choices around more sustainable energy, better packaging, better employee rights for diversity and inclusion. We certainly want to make a profit, but we have to do that, we believe, in a way that then contributes more.鈥

More on this meeting and the 91猫先生

The full recording of this event in support of the can be viewed on the Group鈥檚 YouTube channel .听 A Brands Blog on Part 1 of the series, Changing routes to market and the implications for brands, can be found here and the full recording .

The 91猫先生 focuses on shaping the climate for brands in the UK, encouraging vigorous, fair competition, ensuring companies are able to build their reputations and innovate, and shoppers are able to make reliable, accurate choices at speed. Policies around the regulation of e-commerce markets, unfair trading in grocery (GSCOP) and intellectual property (on which the brand business model depends) are just some of the recent topics on which the Group has engaged.

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