Global Participation Brand Index reveals consumer apathy is the biggest threat to brands’ survival post-pandemic

Global Participation Brand Index reveals consumer apathy is the biggest threat to brands’ survival post-pandemic

12 October 2021

Iris’ 2021 Participation Brand Index, now in its 4th iteration, warns of an apathy epidemic amongst consumers – revealing that brands who are embracing methods of participation are outperforming their competition:

  • Study finds that indifference towards brands has doubled since 2018, with 8 out of 10 brands not being thought about regularly and 82% of consumers admitting they are not excited by brands
  • 4 out of 5 brands are also failing to connect emotionally with customers
  • 77% of consumers no longer trust brands, with 57% not feeling comfortable sharing their data
  • Iris warns that unless brands embrace methods of participation they run the ever-increasing risk of being ‘cancelled’
  • The Index reveals that brands who are embracing people-powered participation are outperforming their competition and reaping commercial rewards during the pandemic

 

Our new global study has revealed that brand’s failure to connect emotionally with consumers has caused a steep spike in brand apathy and distrust, which is having a significantly negative impact on their bottom line.

The study reveals that indifference towards brands has doubled since 2018, with 8 out of 10 brands not being thought about regularly thanks to the rapid shift towards adblocking and video on demand. 82% of consumers admitted they are not excited by brands, with 4 out of 5 brands failing to connect emotionally across a range of key measures such as excitement, intrigue and love. Meanwhile, there is an equally significant decline in brand trust (77% consumers do not trust brands) and a big warning sign for brands looking to use first-party data to survive in a post-cookie world – with the percentage of consumers who feel comfortable sharing their data decreasing by 33%.

The ‘Participation Brand Index’, now in its fourth edition, surveyed and analysed data from 7,000 consumers across 150 B2B and B2C brands in the US, Europe and Asia. The study uses 25 different levers of participation to demonstrate the impact each has in driving both brand and business performance. Ultimately, the study aims to distinguish which brands are setting new benchmarks for consumer expectations and how people are responding to them.

The Index was conducted in 2021 as a result of emerging global trends, exacerbated by a pandemic that has caused people to become more digitally hyperconnected than ever before. Global social media users now surpass 3.8 billion causing a profound shift from the old world of persuasion via mass media to a new world of participation via micro-networks. The increasing frequency of rapidly growing global movements such as Black Lives Matter, Time’s Up, Fridays for Future and even Wall Street Bets show the extent to which cultural power is being placed in people’s hands and how quickly and easily information, ideas and influence can spread in a radically democratized way.

While marketing strategies built for the broadcast age aren’t working as hard as they used to, the study also demonstrates that brands that harness the power of participation; listening and responding to people’s wants, needs and voices, are outperforming their competition at every stage of the funnel. These brands are executing strategies that relate to participation, ranging from building purposeful brand platforms to insight-led customer experiences and people-powered influencer programs.

The study also reveals that brands that invest in participation create deeper, stickier relationships with their customers that can better withstand economic and social turbulence. A 3-year investment in the top 10 global brands in the Participation Brand Index would have earned a return almost 2.5 times that of the bottom 10 brands. Additionally, an investment in the top 10 brands in the Index would have produced a return 4.5 times that of the S&P 500 over the same 3 years.

Key findings include;

  • Purpose provides the performance edge. Apple was knocked off the top spot for the first time by Tesla, as its relentless focus on building a better future has made it the new champion of the Participation Brand Index – and quadrupled its share price in the process. Tesla outperformed Apple on all purpose-related measures, with 77% of people seeing Tesla as a brand ‘shaping the future’.
  • Great CX drives an emotional response. The brands creating the highest levels of NPS and interest are those innovating in CX to create memorable moments of participation, not just a seamless experience. Beauty retailer Glossier outperformed the leading ‘FAANG’ technology brands across all CX measures, driving high levels of enjoyment and excitement through its authentic and community-led mobile experience.
  • Sustainability has become a key indicator of a brand's success. Brands that are putting sustainability at the forefront of their proposition now dominate the top ten. Beside Tesla, next-generation footwear brand Allbirds is number one brand amongst millennials in the study, Oatly beat every other consumer product goods brand and IKEA rose by 11 places.
  • People are willing to pay more for brands who lead culture. Consumers are happier to pay a premium for brands that create a sense of being ‘ahead of the curve’, introduce consumers to new ideas and keep consumers guessing what they’re going to do next. For the under 35s, Netflix is the brand people are most willing to pay more for. Amongst 35+, it is Samsung.
  • Consistency is the biggest driver of trust. Brands like Coke, Disney and Apple who deliver a consistent experience at every touchpoint have the highest scores for ‘trust’. The number one most trusted brand is PayPal - who are also the brand people are most comfortable sharing data with.
  • B2B brands embracing participation are outperforming B2C brands. Top performing B2B brands such as Splunk, Alight, Palantir and Twilio are using data-driven participation to reinvent the rules of demand generation. The top ten B2B brands in the study outperform the leading consumer brands.
  • Hot brands polarize. TikTok is officially the ‘hottest’ brand in the study, being rated the brand most ‘hot right now in popular culture’ and ranking second place overall among 18–24-year-olds, behind Netflix. Simultaneously the brand triggered a significantly higher number of ‘dislikes’ than other any brand. This isn’t the first time the study polarization has driven performance - in 2015, Beats headphones was both the hottest and most disliked brand.

 

Ben Essen, chief strategy officer, Iris commented; For a decade we have researched the disruption of ‘top down’ advertising by digital connectivity - but the shift is now more profound than ever. Customers are in control and every brand is a step away from being cancelled. The Participation Brand Index proves that unless brands embrace participation, by adding authentic and innovative value to their customers lives, they will increasingly struggle to drive commercial returns.

 

The Study

Iris started charting the emergence of a new model of brand building that uses participation rather than persuasion over a decade ago. Since then, Iris has conducted four Participation Brand Index studies.

The 2021 ‘Participation Brand Index’ surveyed and analyzed data from 7,000 consumers across 150 B2B and B2C brands in the US, Europe and Asia. The study uses 25 different levers of participation to demonstrate the impact each has in driving both brand and business performance. Levers include ‘makes me feel part of a community of like-minded people’ and ‘would share data with’.

Ultimately the study aims to distinguish which brands are setting new benchmarks for consumer expectations and how people are responding to them.

As part of the Participation Brand Index, Iris has established the 5 pillars of a successful Participation Brand.

Passionate purpose: Creating a brand that has a genuine and visible desire to participate positively in its customers’ lives

Experience innovating: Creating a brand that meets and exceeds its customers’ expectations in every interaction

Culture shaping: Creating a brand that plays a credible role in supporting or shaping people’s passions, lifestyles and conversations 

People power: Creating a brand that feels like a community shaped and influenced by its customers

Distinctive character: Creating a brand that is consistently clear, vibrant and instantly recognizable in every moment of participation

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