NEWS6 November 2017

Key takeaways from the MRS Customer Summit

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Brands including Disney, Lloyds Banking Group, Durex and Trinity Mirror gathered to discuss how changing consumer expectations are impacting their businesses at the MRS Customer Summit. 

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In a world of unending choice and consumer awareness, it’s never been more important for brands to understand their customers.

At last week’s MRS Customer Summit, brands and agencies gathered to discuss and highlight key trends impacting their businesses, outlining the need to identify and respond to changing behaviours quickly.

  1.     Brands are facing a crisis of trust as gaps emerge between London and the rest of the UK

Brands are increasingly negatively associated with ‘the establishment’, particularly by those outside the capital, research from Trinity Mirror has found. The paper, ‘When trust falls down’, highlighted the gap in perceptions between agencies and the consumers they are looking to target. Forty-six of 56 household brands analysed have a negative relevance score, meaning they are not connecting well outside London.

Andrew Tenzer, head of group insight at Trinity Mirror, said: “Brands are being lumped in with the establishment and the wealthy elite and not connecting to those outside London, and the establishment is largely viewed to be abstract and unreachable. 

“The advertising industry is seen to support big business and there is a conflation between the two – being part of the establishment, they are seen to lie and cheat to make a profit.”

He suggested that marketers need to focus more on ‘anecdote-telling’ rather than storytelling to foster more belief in brands, while explicit geo-targeting should replace implicit geo-targeting to convince people outside London that brands care about them.

  1.     It’s not always about exciting and delighting customers

Lloyds Banking Group conducted a long piece of research around its SME banking proposition, that uncovered a finding that wasn’t expected – customers were nervous about trading overseas and didn’t think Lloyds would be able to help, while relationship managers didn’t feel comfortable discussing it.

Faye Banks, senior manager – strategy, group brands and marketing, said: “Colleagues knew their customers needed help, but they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. But we had all the kit there, so it was just about how we organised it to be able to help our customers trade overseas. It all came from a little bit of insight within a larger piece and realising we could help there.”

For Lloyds, helping customers in this case meant “making sure words and figures agreed,” said Banks. “It’s about helping SME customers achieve what they’re trying to do in their business. It’s about being that invisible support, keeping things easy for people. We’re there when you need us, but the rest of the time, invisible.”

  1.     Brands and researchers need to re-evaluate gender

Every five years, Durex conducts a global sex survey and its findings put a spotlight on the changing nature of people’s sexual and gender identity. The big trends it has identified are: a disconnect between sex and love; increasing exposure to sexual themes increase performance anxiety; the increasingly importance of sex and digital; and new definitions of sex and gender.

For instance, only 55% of 18- to 25-year-olds identify themselves as heterosexual but that doesn’t mean they consider themselves homosexual – but rather, they increasingly see themselves as somewhere in between. In his presentation, Adam Conley global consumer and market insights senior manager at Durex, posed the question to clients and market researchers – if consumers are changing their view of gender identity, then research approaches must too. If gender is seen as non-binary, then the gender question that invariably opens as survey may need to be too.

  1.     There’s opportunity in negativity

Panellists discussed the challenges of representing research internally and presenting findings to clients and senior colleagues, which often means delivering bad news. 

Alison Camps, deputy chairman of Quadrangle, said: "I'm very comfortable with delivering bad news, but I think in every bit of bad news, there’s opportunity. We need to deliver hope to our clients in the way clients want to deliver hope and aspiration to their customers."

Lloyds’ Banking Group’s Banks said: “Sometimes you’ve got to just keep going back – that requires a lot of tenacity and stubbornness and battering the door down. You have to prove the opportunity. You’ve got to find something that’s right for the customer, right for the organisation and brings the right financial reward. Sometimes, if people don’t like the answer, they question the method or the agency you’ve used and you have to stand your ground – that is hard.”

Richard Ellwood, head of audience strategy for EMEA at The Walt Disney Company, added: "I've come across brands where research will happen for affirmation – researchers will say ‘don't worry, it’s all great', and just come back with really positive news – in which case, what’s the point? Running research just to have affirmation and positive news is completely outdated and senseless."

Disney ensures its research function has a key voice internally and makes any negative findings the focus of change, he said. But, he added: “However close you stay to your audience, there’s always a risk of unintended consequences.”