NEWS18 March 2015

Reshaping reputations – how emotional engagement can drive the bottom line

News Opinion UK

UK — Social and emotional engagement are playing an increasingly important role in brand reputation and driving profit margins, according to panellists at Impact 2015.


The session was chaired by Kevin Read, chairman of corporate and brand at Bell Pottinger, who said: “Reputations are made and broken at breakneck speed and it’s now impossible to understand modern brands outside the context of social media and digital.”

His assertion that brand perception is playing an increasingly important role in decision-making, was backed by Tom Adams, global head of strategy at FutureBrand, who said that how companies behave in the world beyond their pursuit of profit is an increasing driver of the bottom line.

He cited Unilever, as a brand owner that has built emotional engagement into its business model, insisting that those brands that would be future proof and have competitive advantage over their rivals were those that engaged emotionally with consumers.

FutureBrand and QRi conducted research on the top 100 companies by market capitalisation, re-ranking them on public perception.

“We had a hunch that maybe that [market capitalisation] order would change,” Adams explained.

Google, which ranked third in terms of market capitalisation, topped the future-proof ranking, while other brands featuring high up in the ranking were Unilever and IBM.

“Innovations through leadership and authenticity are the very important drivers that got those brands up there,” said Simon Patterson, from QRi Consulting, who worked with Adams on the study. “We know that decision-making is a function of feeling, not thought and that the area of emotion and understanding has expanded.”

Moss Bros

Jemima Bird, Moss Bros’s commercial and operations director, recalled how the menswear retailer’s reputation had been at its nadir.

“We found that people had no emotional engagement with the brand,” she said. “It was seen as traditional and expert, an established, well-known brand for reasonably-priced suits and a heck of a range, and a brand that people knew. But it was not on-trend or stylish.”

To rebuild its reputation, Moss Bros created four ‘amazings’ to ensure the brand made men feel amazing. It lightened the interiors of its stores, transformed its collections, brought its entire range into every shop by using in-store internet, signed a deal with gay magazine ‘Attitude’ and created a £3,000 campaign that drove millions of hits online.

The strategy paid off and boosted brand perceptions and sales – with like-for-like sale up 22% at its concept stores.

Rail reputation

Discussing reputation’s relationship with emotional engagement, or a lack of it, Keith Bailey and Ian Wright of Passenger Focus discussed the perception of the UK’s rail operators, a sector often falling victim to the vitriol of the media.

Passenger Focus research found that rational measures such as value for money, information provision are “really only hygiene factors”, Wright said, with the research revealing a hierarchy of service brands showing that “softer factors” such as personalisation and making customers feel valued are very important.

“Simply put, these companies are not making connections with their customers. Never forget how you make them feel.

“If train companies are to develop relationships with passengers they need to build a store of goodwill – we need to work on getting some of those emotional attributes in there as well.”