WE reveals Brands in Motion study

WE in the News



In June, WE Communications introduced its inaugural Brands in Motion (BIM) study, the agency’s follow-up and companion to the Stories in Motion (SIM) study – and its local Content Matters research, which was released last year.

media update’s Kristy Hesom caught up with Sarah Gooding Kobus, WE Communications SA’s deputy general manager, to find out more about the study and the concept of brands being more in motion today, than ever before.

What was the reason for WE Communications initiating the Brands in Motion study and what is the central premise underpinning the study?

The inaugural Brands in Motion (BIM) study, conducted in the US, the UK, and China, is the agency’s follow-up and companion to the Stories in Motion (SIM) – and its local Content Matters research released last year.

The Content Matters research considers a number of factors that influence customer purchasing habits in South Africa, including platform, time of day, age, etc.

The BIM study examines our hypothesis that all brands are in motion. That motion is relative to the markets in which the brands operate, the categories they are a part of, their competition, their employees, their investors, and their current and future customers. Essentially, the brand’s reality today.

Today, brands are in motion with greater velocity than ever before, across multiple devices, platforms and channels. Motion is the relationship between the forces the brand exerts, i.e. what they’re saying and doing as a brand vs. the forces that are being exerted upon the brand (be they environmental factors such as economic and political influences, technology disruptors, or exponential expectations such as trending public campaigns, consumer viewpoints, etc.).

The idea behind Brands in Motion is that brands ought not think of their ultimate positioning relative to competitors and the broader market, as this implies a static end-point, but rather consider where they exist on the motion continuum – asking, is a brand driving itself forward or is it a passenger at the mercy of external factors (or perhaps a blend of both). Brands in Motion helps brands find their momentum and avoid the static status quo.

Now, more than ever, customers are interested in what a brand does and not just the product or service it delivers. They want to feel good about their decision and ensure that the brand aligns with their own personal values. This means that brands must create deliberate threads of content that engage consumers in their daily motion. It means brands must move away from static messages and single-platform content and create, co-create, and amplify real-time, living Stories in Motion.

The study, which focused on the US, the UK, and China, speaks of four realities affecting brands today. What are they and their implications?

The four realities represent our point of view as a marketing communications agency, providing context into how we view the environment our clients operate in and framing the counsel we deliver. The pilot research study examined both the rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choices within today’s quick shifting environment – to decipher brand movement relative to the geography, industry, and key stakeholders.

The study will be conducted annually and expand to additional markets, including South Africa, in the next couple of months.

The BIM study revealed four new realities brands face in today’s business environment. Here is a summary of what these realities look like:

Reality 1: Stability is an element of motion. While consumer brands and categories are experiencing rapid change, consumers believe that brands can provide stability within a moving market. Some 62% of study respondents in China, 42% in the UK, and 48% in the US said they believed brands can absolutely provide stability.

Reality 2: Cutting edge is transcendent. Our study found a high correlation between brands that are viewed as cutting edge and brands that are loved, seen as out for the common good, and viewed as a pleasure to do business with. This connection strongly suggests that being cutting-edge—whether enabled by technology or inspired by it—leads to positive brand outcomes in areas that transcend product.

Reality 3: The Unilever effect. Across all three markets, half or more of surveyed consumers said they placed a balance on brands delivering not only highly effective, high-functional products and services but also on those taking an active position on issues that provide long-term social value. Consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on important issues, especially if those issues are in direct conflict with their core values as an organisation.

Reality 4: Love you today, shame you tomorrow. Out of all eight categories surveyed across China, the UK, and the US, two out of three people said they loved the industry; however, nine out of ten people said they would gladly join in public shaming of that industry if they stepped out of line.

What is the Motion Matrix, its purpose and how does it work?

If we look at the four realities facing brands today, WE developed a matrix to help brands understand and manage these four realities and the larger environmental factors at play. The WE Motion Matrix uses rational and emotional scores to capture the movement of categories and brands against four quadrants: Defenders, Movers, Survivors and Agitators.

Using the four quadrants, the WE Motion Matrix plots a brand’s positioning relative to its rational and emotional scoring. Here is a snapshot of what brands may look like in each quadrant:

WE Brands in Motion

Movers score high in both emotional and rational drivers. They are brands or categories that have found the right balance of emotion and rational thoughts and beliefs. But they have to keep pushing and continue to find what’s next. It’s fair to say that many technology brands are currently in this quadrant.

Defenders are high in rational but low in emotional drivers. They may be selling commodity, low-margin/high-value products and services or are part of highly regulated industries. Maybe they are satisfied with being a defender, but there is little love for them and few will come to their defense in times of crisis. If they want to move, they need to start engaging with consumers and finding the love.

Agitators show low rational and high emotional scores. These are the game changers, wooing consumers into what’s possible through high experience and engagement. They may be ‘annoying’ movers with the strength of their love, but they have to prove accessibility and everyday benefit to lend credibility to their brand/category.

Survivors score 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 get laser focused on how to turn motion into an advantage for them – 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 they risk becoming irrelevant.

The Vortex: Falling in the middle of all of this is the most dangerous place to be – where brands and categories are spinning in place. It indicates apathy and complacency from your consumers. It also suggests that you may be too comfortable with where you are.

The South African results are due in Spring this year.

You can view the full report on the UK, China and US markets here.