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Changing consumers seek brands they trust, buddies, not badges

Trust is fast becoming one of the most important components of brand building and a key driver of brand health. This is evident even among the younger consumers born during and after the 1980s, and they constitute the most influential consumer segment.

Driving the rising importance of trust is the shifting cultural context. People seek more stability in their lives and different work-life balance. This change is happening as people reappraise the meanings and consequences of the rapid social and economic changes they’ve been experiencing over the past decades. At the same time, people’s relationship with brands and what they expect from brands are evolving. Here are some of the key characteristics of the societal shift:

1. The attitude toward change is moving from urgency to caution.

Consumers are getting less excited by newness. Change has been the constant and consumers seem to be suffering from fatigue. Instead, people are beginning to want to slow down. They want to feel that they still have a part to play in the big picture, just like yesterday, and the script is not getting changed too fast and too frequently.

2. People are looking for the playbook.?The traditional fear of chaos is coming back. People used to believe that breaking rules could create advantages as “heroes?were born out of chaos.” Then, nutritional food became poison; bullet trains derailed; luxury furniture bought to enhance “face” ended up an embarrassment. Many promises of improvement proved to be fantasies. It’s become clear that breaking rules can hurt everyone. As people re-evaluate what’s right and what’s wrong against a background that keeps shifting, they yearn for direction and guidelines.

3. They want to protect home and family.?Home is central to Chinese?life. People want their home to?be their castle, shielding them from outside troubles. But when career advancement gets more challenging, home becomes more vulnerable. Individuals have to spend more time away from home in pursuit of opportunities, but home maintains the integrity of family life. Having a child is important. Children help reinforce the bond of family.

Brands need to adjust to these changing needs and attitudes. Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated. Their relationship with brands is maturing. While they used to look to brands as proof they were keeping up, they now want a more intimate relationship with brands, one that is more based on knowledge, trust and companionship. Brands have to earn the privilege of getting close to people, by offering something of value that is close to them. In short, brands must transform from “badges” to “buddies.”

Given these changes, trustworthiness is critical to brand success. Brands can build trust in several ways:

Performance: Work on quality. Get your products to deliver a reliable user experience.

Integrity: Show that you care and have a social or cultural purpose. Being straightforward means you are not hiding anything.

Heritage: Be authentic with who you are, and celebrate the journeys you have traveled with consumers.

Ingenuity: Demonstrate you are an innovative and intelligent player. To become a leadership brand, champion something.

Kaiyu LiChief Strategy Officer
Y&R China

About Y&R

Y&R is one of the leading global marketing communications companies comprising Y&R Advertising agency, VML, the fast-growing digital agency and the mobile marketer iconmobile.



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