In 2013, expect to see more leadership brands addressing local issues that are pertinent to their consumers’ lives before they campaign on behalf of global challenges.

Technological advancement is a hygienic factor for all brands

Why? In many ways, technological advancement – often reflected by the idea of “new and improved” – has become a hygienic factor for all brands, regardless of the category. If you don’t continuously evolve in today’s world, you are fast left behind.  So while innovation is expected from brand leaders, participants in our CultureQ research believe brands should positively use their prominence and influence first to enhance the lives of individual users and then benefit communities and society at large.  Overall, participants expect leadership brands to evolve our lifestyles, set new standards and progress society.

Not surprisingly, a good product is the basis of a strong brand

After years of seeking inspiration and aspiration from leading brands, people are clearly focused on the basics.  In a recent CultureQ study, 663 respondents from the US, aged 16 to 65, first and foremost characterize brand leadership by product and service excellence offered at a fair price for the quality.  Respondents, regardless of their generational cohort, decidedly rank attributes such as produces durable/reliable products or services (48%), excellent customer service (42%), and value for quality (41%) as the most important for fostering leadership from a set of 23 potential characteristics.  Unequivocally, a good product is the basis of a strong brand.

Yet, respondents also tell us that to become a favorite and cultivate loyalty, a brand leader must also help me in my everyday life (62%), help me accomplish my goals (30%), and mirror my personal values (48%).

“So many brands are reliable now and innovative, my favorite brands connect with my personal values.”

Favorite brands mirror consumers everyday concerns and personal values

So, what are the personal values and concerns our respondents are looking for brands to reflect?  Many can be found in their definition of good citizenship, which emphasizes the importance of delivering goodwill locally before investing in larger global initiatives.  Characteristics such as employs people from the communities in which it operates (29%), donates money to the communities it operates in (26%), and uses local suppliers (24%) outrank things such as implements changes in its operations that are in the best interest of society (23%), treats suppliers ethically (20%), uses only ethical suppliers (19%), engineers solutions that help address societal challenges (16%), donates to/supports social programs in developing nations (12%), and takes a stand on social/political issues (9%).

Take Apple for example.  While we all recognize and can easily explain its position in our research as the #1 leadership brand (in an open-ended question 55% of respondents name it as one of the top 5 brand leaders) and favorite (29%), given all the negative press its received about suppliers you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to rank highly as a good citizen as well.  Yet in recent CultureQ research it did, with 22% of participants naming it a good brand citizen.  Qualitative responses give us the answer to this: people tell us Apple has transformed how we communicate and interact with each other, and that good citizenship is as much about making my every day routine easier and more pleasurable and bettering my life as it is about improving the world and society at large.

So, what of technological advancement?  Why is it no longer the deciding factor for brand leadership?  According to CultureQ’s respondents, new is simply the new normal.  They believe brands must continuously ‘make the mundane interesting to remain relevant’ and motivate and enable their users to be creative, curious, collaborative, and productive.  Yet, because of the superabundance of brand related stimulation they witness in any given day, more or less moment-to-moment, our participants, most especially Millennials, tell us they prefer to focus their energy on existing relationships with brands that are productive and satisfying rather than try new ones.

“I feel like I’m burdened down with choice, so I like owning versatile items from one brand.”

68% of respondents use their most favorite brand exclusively and would never cheat on it

This is not surprising given that our respondents are highly loyal to their favorite brands.  68% report that they use their most favorite brand exclusively and would never cheat on it.  Qualitatively, participants report that favorite brands provide ‘intuitive solutions that effortlessly integrate into my routine’ and ‘that my favorite brand knows me, but not in an invasive way.’  Importantly, people, especially Millennials, are driven to positively reinvent the future and make it more life enhancing for themselves as well as the communities they belong to.  Because they expect their favorite brands to do the same, the opportunities for brands to innovate and stretch will grow over the next year

Understand the connection between creating brand leadership and nourishing brands locally

Obviously, marketing strategists do need to think globally in terms of developing products and expanding market share.  However, they need to first understand the connection between creating brand leadership and nourishing their brands locally.  Simply put, successful brands demonstrate their life-enhancing qualities in their consumers’ everyday lives as well as their communities.  So think local for a change!