We live in an accelerated environment where the only certainty is change.

In the new era of brand communication, it is not enough to look at brand positioning which assumes brands are moving to a fixed destination; and when it achieves this position, it has been successful. In today’s fast-paced environment, that is just not the case.

Brands are moving in motion with other forces and in a context of acceleration, disruption, dislocation and the exponential expectations of its customers. Brand motion means that not only did you never have control, but today, you have even less.

The key questions for communication professionals will be; are you propelling your brand forward, is it something or someone else propelling your brand, or is it both?

We are thrilled to introduce our first global study, ‘Brands in Motion’, in partnership with WE Communications, which examines both the rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choices today – and how that affects a brand relative to the geography and industry it operates in.

The research was conducted in partnership with YouGov in August 2017, and spanned six markets internationally, including Australia. We interviewed more than 4,500 consumers and 1,000 business decision makers per country, and examined six brand categories in Australia – Computing Devices, Smart Home, Finance/Banking, Health/Wellness, Enterprise Technology, and Enterprise Healthcare.

We uncovered four key realities for brands in Australia:

  1. Stability is an element of motion:

More than 80 per cent of Australian respondents believe brands have the capacity to provide stability in times of uncertainty – even in an era of rapid change and upheaval for businesses, industries and consumers. Given this, more brands should be looking to capitalise on this opportunity by offering new value to their customers as a stabilising force.

  1. Cutting edge is transcendent:

We discovered that the perception of innovation – whether enabled or inspired by technology – is linked at the hip to positive brand outcomes beyond the physical product or service. Brands with high innovation perceptions were more likely to be loved, seen as being out for the common good, and a pleasure to do business.

The opposite also holds true. Brands with low innovation perception are more than likely to have lower social impact and customer experience perceptions.

  1. Unilever Effect

When Paul Polman was appointed CEO of Unilever in 2009, he took a number of steps – many criticised at the time – to improve long-term decision making, enable the business and brand to have a more positive impact on society, and provide greater brand value.

His actions over the last near-decade have resulted in a significant mindset shift in what a responsible business looks like. Today, we know it as the ‘Unilever Effect.’

More than two thirds (68%) of Australian respondents either strongly or somewhat agree that they expect brands to take a stand on important issues, particularly if that issue is in direct conflict with their organisation’s core values. In fact, customers consider it almost equally as important as the quality of the product or service, when making a purchasing decision.

  1. Love you today, shame you tomorrow

Even if your brand or industry is well loved today, step out of line tomorrow and this can quickly pivot.

In Australia, almost three quarters of respondents said they would have no qualms publicly shaming a brand or industry in a crisis where it was at fault – even if they had previously loved them.

This only makes it more pertinent for brands to build stronger emotional connections with consumers to maintain customer loyalty, especially in times of choppy waters.

Introducing the WE Motion Matrix

From our research, we have developed the WE Motion Matrix to capture the constant movement of categories and brands.

WE Motion Matrix


The Matrix plots brands and categories in one of four positions on the quadrant – ‘Mover,’ ‘Defender,’ Agitator,’ or ‘Survivor,’ depending on whether or not they are emotionally connected, and whether they connected on rational levels. It aims to help communication professionals identify where their brand falls on the Matrix, and guide their strategy forward as a brand in motion.

We analysed where categories sat on the quadrant in Australia:

  1. Defender: Perhaps not surprisingly, Finance/Banking sits as a ‘Defender.’ As a highly regulated industry, there is little love for them and few will defend them in tough time
  2. Survivor: Health/Wellness, and Enterprise Healthcare will need to move fast to reach key stakeholders on an emotional and rational level, to move their brand forward – or risk becoming irrelevant
  3. Mover: Computing Devices and Enterprise Tech have found the right balance of emotion and rationality. They have harnessed their own ‘meaningful’ motion, and are moving in rhythm with the environment around them. They’ll need to keep pushing to continue succeeding
  4. Agitator: Smart Home is an Agitator. It ‘woos’ customers through rich experiences and engagement. However, they need to prove they are beneficial and accessible to lend high credibility to their category in the long term

So what and where next?

We are hosting a panel of brand experts from Spotify, eHarmony, and Yellow Brick Road to delve into the research findings and discuss, with these industry insiders, the ways that brands can propel forward and respond positively to change.  To register for our ‘Brands In Motion’ event on 12 October, 5.30pm, at Harbour 220 in Sydney, or to learn more about the Brands in Motion study, contact us on bim@buchanwe.com.au

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