The study aims to examine both the rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choices within today’s environment — to decipher brand movement relative to the geography, industry, and key stakeholders.

"A staggering 63% of people we talked to, across all markets surveyed, said they expect brands to deliver both functionality and purpose in some form," says Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO of WE Communications. "Yes, brands must continue to have great products to offer; however, consumers expect purpose to play a role as well."

The brand motion aims to take into account the influence of broader environmental factors and underlying consumer expectations. WE Communications' study shows four realities that businesses can harness for the mutual benefit of brands and stakeholders.

Reality one – Stability is an element of motion

The study shows that there is a high number of consumers that believe brands are capable of providing stability in uncertain times – 90% of WE Brands in Motion study respondents in South Africa said they believed brands can absolutely provide stability, creating a huge opportunity for brands to step up and offer new value to customers as a stabilising force.

Reality two – Cutting edge is transcendent

The WE Communications study also found a high correlation between brands that are viewed as cutting edge, also being loved versus hated. They are also seen as 'out for the common good' versus doing harm and viewed as a pleasure versus a misery to do business with.

According to WE Communications, this connection suggests that being cutting edge – whether enabled by technology or inspired by it – leads to positive brand outcomes in areas that transcend product.

Reality three – The unilever effect

Across all six markets, half or more of surveyed consumers – and 67% in South Africa – said they placed a balance on brands delivering not only highly effective, high-functional benefit products and services but also taking an active position on issues that provide long-term social value.

The study shows that consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on important issues, especially if in direct conflict with their core values as an organisation – this is almost equally weighted in purchase decisions.

Reality four – Love you today, shame you tomorrow

Out of all eight categories in the six markets surveyed, 54% of people said they loved the industry. However, 98% of people said they would gladly join in public shaming of that industry if it stepped out of line.

The study reveals that brands today need to build stronger emotional connections with consumers to keep customer loyalty, especially in times of crisis. In South Africa, tech B2B has the highest likelihood to defend, with 42% of respondents indicating they would defend these brands 'to the bitter end'.

Motion Matrix

WE Communications developed a matrix to help brands understand and manage these realities, and the larger environmental factors in play. The Motion Matrix is a diagnostic tool that uses rational and emotional scores to capture the movement of categories and brands against four quadrants.

"At its core, traditional brand positioning is a flawed construct," says Alan VanderMolen, president international and WE+. "Brands need to understand, and capitalise, on the forces of motion around them and turn that into momentum. The Motion Matrix gives them a way to do that."

By understanding consumer mindset through the lens of motion, WE Communications' new Motion Matrix allows brands to not only see where they land but get guidance on what they can do to move.

The four quadrants

Those that score high in both emotional and rational drivers are Movers – a brand or category that has found the right balance of emotion and rational thoughts. According to the study in South Africa, brands in the computing devices and tech B2B categories scored well in this quadrant.

High in rational, but low in emotional drivers are Defenders. Many companies that fall here 'might be satisfied with being a 'defender', but, due to low emotional connection, they risk losing customer support in times of crisis'.

Low rational and high emotional scores fell into the Agitators quadrant. These are the game changers, wooing consumers into what’s possible through high experience and engagement.

A Survivor scores low in both emotional and rational drivers. These brands have either just pulled through something big, or are on the precipice of needing to. They need to be ready to move fast to reach people on a rational and emotional level to move their brand to a leading spot in the industry – or risk becoming irrelevant.

In South Africa, the finance and automotive industries are in Survivor mode and have yet to find a shared, common vision with consumers.

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media update spoke to Sarah Gooding Kobus about the Brands in Motion study and the concept of brands being more in motion. Read more in our article, WE Communications reveals its Brands in Motion Study.