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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

Purpose needs focus

Most brands understand the importance of having a purpose – something that gets all the staff out of bed each day beyond the need to simply make more money. But what’s vital is that it’s not just any purpose – one that could just as easily apply to the brand in the office next door. To be credible, purpose must be relevant both to a category and a specific brand. Think of Fever Tree’s support for Malaria No More; the brand could equally have chosen another worthy cause, but this one relates to the use of quinine in tonic water as a 19th-century anti-malarial drug.

Moments really matter

There are many opportunities for brands to find a way into people’s lives, even if an individual already has a preferred brand in their category, by focusing on distinct moments of consumption. In the coffee category, for example, a household might opt for a brand that broadly meets the needs of everyone in the home for their breakfast coffee. But for a mid-morning pick-me-up or drink in the office, individuals might consider something that meets their own unique preferences, and when sharing a coffee with friends, there could be a different brand of choice. Brands need to choose their moments.

Consumers have suspicious minds

Concerns about “fake news” have made their way across the Pond, intensified by concerns about the accuracy of information about Brexit being shared. Half of Brits believe the information that’s on social media is unreliable – way more than the 35 percent global average. At the same time, half say they’re concerned about social networks controlling what they see. In that context, and given that Brits are proudly cynical at the best of times, it’s essential that brands using social media be honest, transparent and relevant.

Age really is just a number

Many brands might think their audience is the youth market, but for most global brands, the number of times they’re chosen by consumers over 50 is higher than that for the under-35s. The first lesson here is not to overlook older consumers – people who tend to have higher incomes and a greater demand for choice than those who might have fewer grey hairs. The second is to be wary of targeting consumers with messaging primarily determined by age, because older people are often far more sprightly than the stereotype would paint them, and broad age groups miss much of the colour in people’s lives. Under-35s, for instance, include students, those who’ve been in work for a decade, and people who are starting families – all with very different spending possibilities and priorities.

Time to take it easy

With around one in six Brits saying they experience a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in any given week, the stigma around mental health problems is fading. Public information campaigns, and high-profile royal backing for better mental health support in schools, workplaces and the armed forces, are helping make this an issue for everyone to address. Brands are also responding. Lloyds Bank has featured celebrities, bank employees and members of the public in advertising depicting a game of “Who am I” to talk about mental health conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. Marks & Spencer has launched mental health drop-ins in some of its in-store cafes; sessions at Frazzled Cafés are hosted by trained volunteers and provide a space where people can talk openly.

They don’t want to hear it

The use of ad blockers by UK consumers seems to have levelled off, with about 22 percent of people saying they never go online without them, and a further 32 percent saying they sometimes deploy ad-blocking technology. This means that more than half of the online market is avoiding advertising entirely – though at least ad blockers’ use is no longer growing. But there’s another worry for advertisers: consumers are increasingly adopting solutions allowing them to cherry-pick the services and platforms on which they will tolerate ads in return for free access. Subscription services offer an abundance of premium content that’s ad-free in return for a fee. It’s clear that consumers want that choice.

No thanks, I’m not drinking

Sales of low and non-alcoholic beer and wine have shot up as the nation turns away from a drinking tradition built on pints and pies. The number of people who have had an alcoholic drink in the past week has dropped from 64.2 percent in 2005 to fewer than 57 percent – which equates to 3 million people cutting back on a weekly drink. Just over 20. percent of UK adults say they don’t drink alcohol at all – some for reasons of health, and others out of concern about the cost. The result is a boon for zero and low-alcohol craft beers – and for more adult-tasting soft drinks.

Oh, go on then, I’ll have 10

The bizarre flipside of this shift in drinking habits is that those who are still drinking are doing it with considerable application. Drinkers in the UK get drunk more often than anywhere else in the world, with adults who do consume alcohol getting drunk an average of just under once a week. At the same time, consumption of hot drinks in the home has declined by 5 percent in the past two years, likely as a result of people buying tea and coffee on the go. But the clear tipple of choice for most people’s daily needs is water; demand for fizzy drinks has levelled out, while there’s been a 54 percent surge in consumption of tap water over the past five years.

That’s private

UK consumers are a retiring bunch, and this extends to their online concerns, with 53 percent saying they’re concerned about what companies know about them – a much higher figure than the 40 percent global average. When it comes to data privacy, high-profile data breaches of trusted institutions such as the NHS have combined with a growing awareness of just how much data is being collected by connected devices – and awareness of the Europe-wide GDPR regulation – to raise concerns. For brands, this means providing a clear value exchange when asking for personal data. Essentially, it needs to be worth it for the consumer in order for them to even consider sharing. Then, they need to be reassured that once you get their data, you’ll handle it with care.

Facebook still leads social networks

It’s been hit by scandal and is derided by teens as the social network for old people, but it’s still way out in front of other social media channels in the UK, both in terms of number of users and the time those users spend on the platform. Facebook reaches 41 million internet users aged 13-plus, or 90 percent of the online population per month, and they spend an average of around half an hour a day on the platform. Twitter has the next-highest reach (70 percent) followed by Snapchat (49.7 percent). But Snapchat beats Twitter for dwell time, keeping users engaged for around eight minutes a day.

Precision’s great, but creativity rules

Excitement over the ability to precisely target groups and individuals with advertising has in some cases overshadowed the need to produce a great piece of creative. British consumers report among the lowest levels of enjoyment of advertising in the world, with only 11 percent saying they generally like it, and the vast majority saying they could take it or leave it. Data deployed in smart ways can have an incredibly powerful effect on a campaign, but many brands have let data overshadow the need for creativity and emotion in advertising, and need to re-establish a balance between precision and making ads with zing.

It’s all just advertising

Call it what you like, but in consumers’ minds, sponsorship, native, product placements, branded content, editorial support and straightforward advertising are all pretty much the same thing. The prevailing public view is that if they’re ultimately being sold something, then it’s an ad. This means brands need to ensure they speak with one voice across all elements of a campaign. And they need to ensure consistency across all communication channels, be it advertising, PR, websites, sponsorships or any other approach.

Chores are no longer a chore

The internet has done a great many wonderful things, but it has now achieved the impossible – made household cleaning glamorous. The phenomenal rise of Instagram star and industrious duster “Mrs Hinch” has turned what used to be seen as a dull category into one that’s got people comparing notes on rival products, as well as tips and tricks to achieving a gleaming home. There’s higher engagement in the category, as well as a shift to products people feel have more environmentally friendly ingredients, like coconut oil and bamboo.

Mirror, mirror on the wall …

What’s the most influential beauty trend of all? There are two parallel themes driving beauty purchasing at the moment, and they’re pulling people in opposite directions. On the one hand, there’s the desire to present a picture-perfect (and highly Instagrammable) image of yourself, which means rising demand for products that eliminate “imperfections”. On the other hand, however, there’s a push towards a more natural look, achieved with more natural products – hence more vegan ranges and more people sporting long hairstyles and long beards. Similarly, there’s action at both ends of the price spectrum, with Poundland launching its own beauty range, and super-premium brands offering personalised skincare and cosmetics.

Clutter is out of fashion

There’s growing resistance to simply accumulating more “stuff”. Alongside the growth of the sharing economy there’s a desire to simplify and declutter; witness the rise of Marie Kondo, the online queen of minimalism, who advocates paring back personal possessions to only a few key items that bring joy. Empty spaces and clear surfaces are the new status symbols.

Retargeting is a double-edged sword

The ability to have “another shot” at convincing a consumer to buy something you know they’ve been browsing has huge appeal, but too many brands are simply bombarding people with the same ads again and again – apparently in the hope of beating them into submission. There’s a fine line to be trodden here; consumers say they’re more interested in ads that are tailored to their interests than they are in random advertisements, but just over half object to being “followed” online by advertisers, and 70 percent complain that they see the same ads over and over.

Feeling peckish?

Brits are among the world’s most regular consumers of snacks, grabbing a bite between meals at least once a day, compared to just three snacks a week on average in China. Here, snackers start with good intentions, opting for fruit between meals in the early part of the day and mid-afternoon, though chocolate is the most popular choice for a little something after dinner. Snacking is on the rise not just in the UK but globally, and for food and drink brands is providing new moments of consumption that could help make up for a decrease in the number of meals being eaten in the home.

Everything you know about product launches is wrong

Everyone knows most new products fail within their first year, but what’s more helpful is to look at what makes a winner. Kantar research shows much of what the success stories do is counter-intuitive. Going in cheaper than the competition is a no-no; in fact, a premium product encourages shoppers already in the category to trade up. Don’t target consumers who don’t by any competing products – dragging new people into a category is seriously hard. Being first to market with a new attribute, even a popular one, doesn’t always make a product a success; timely adoption of emerging trends is just as good. And good old-fashioned distribution is essential – the simple matter of being available to a lot of people in a lot of places.

Cards accepted here

Just about everyone’s online, but enthusiasm for making payments via smartphone is yet to gather momentum, even among young people. Only 18 percent of Brits say they would like to be able to pay for everything using their mobile phone, compared to a global average of 39 percent. There are underlying trust issues, and many people struggle to see the advantage of mobile payment over older technology such as contactless credit and debit cards. However, the rising success of new payment methods such as Revolut shows that attitudes are changing. Brands looking to successfully embrace new technologies must ensure the benefits are clear, and safety is guaranteed.

Remember to be human

New online service models, and automated options like chatbots, are proving polarising in the UK. For many, British customer service is a long-standing tradition, and online or artificial intelligence options don’t measure up. This is less of a concern for younger people, who have come to expect the brands they use to provide seamless online experiences that fit with their connected lifestyles; think Uber or Deliveroo. Around 28 percent of people say they have no problem talking to an automated bot on social media if it means their question is resolved more quickly. But that means 72 percent still want the human touch.