STUDY HIGHLIGHT: Brand cynicism builds in Australian market - Sefiani research

STUDY HIGHLIGHT: Brand cynicism builds in Australian market - Sefiani research

Strategic communications agency, Sefiani Communications Group, part of Clarity Global, has released its Communication that Matters Report: Building Brand Belonging. The research reveals Australian consumers and employees are yearning for "brand belonging" at a time of growing cynicism. We dig deeper into the latest in Sefiani's "Communication that Matters" series in our Study Highlight.

Almost half (46 per cent) of consumers and a quarter (24 per cent) of employees in Australia are feeling more cynical about brands in 2023, according to Sefiani Communications Group's latest research report. The research revealed that the missing piece for these groups could be achieving a sense of "brand belonging", with 92 per cent of employees and 62 per cent of consumers saying this is important.

Aimed at marketing and communications leaders, the report outlines the opportunity for organisations to build and maintain long-term loyalty and trust by aligning the needs and values of their external and internal stakeholders with those of their brand.

The report's key findings include:
  • The biggest barriers to belonging for consumers are brands taking too long to respond to issues and trends, alongside generic and blanket communications. For employees, the biggest barriers are traditional hierarchies and "out of touch" thinking
  • Communications leaders are increasingly recognising the value of belonging, with half shifting their internal (50 per cent) and external (45 per cent) communications strategies to boost brand belonging post-pandemic
  • While 73 per cent of brand and communication professionals are confident communications has the power to build belonging with stakeholders, over one third (39 per cent) have no insight into whether they’re achieving this with their customers, demonstrating the need for a measurable framework for belonging
The report also found that fostering a sense of belonging requires a change in mindset and strategy to acknowledge shifts that have happened in recent years: “For communicators, this means moving internal and external stakeholders from having a transactional relationship with their brand, to a more emotional relationship. To achieve this, brands must recognise that consumers and employees have undergone significant change, with everything from how we work, travel, eat, stay healthy, connect with others, and more, shifting from early 2020.”

Sefiani’s analysis of brands with high levels of brand belonging found they demonstrate consistent attributes:
  • They get the basics right by addressing their audiences' basic needs, whether that’s affordable products or job security
  • They communicate bad (and good) news openly and honestly to ensure stakeholders feel safe and secure
  • They work consistently to build deep connections and strong relationships, creating an environment of acceptance and belonging for all social groups
  • They listen and then act to empower stakeholders to feel self-confident and valued
  • They create long-term loyalty by "walking the talk" acting as a responsible business against all ESG measures, aligning with stakeholder values and expectations, and not just saying they are
The report identified three ways to adapt processes to create a deeper sense of belonging:
  1. Listen: Understand what systems are in place for gathering feedback from stakeholders about what matters to them and where needed, adopt better processes to provide a more comprehensive view of this. Always have your finger on the pulse to listen to and understand audiences both within and outside the organisation. And let them know they are being heard and their opinions matter.
  2. Do: Act on feedback and use this to inform messaging, corporate and executive communications, campaign planning and strategies, product development, policies and public stances on issues that matter.
  3. Say: Communicate the steps being taken openly, compassionately, transparently and with integrity. It’s important to take a top-down approach where leadership sets the communications standard, and brand messaging is consistent across all channels.
Sefiani Managing Director, Mandy Galmes, who developed the report along with Alice Spraggon, Head of Editorial Content and Taylor Campbell, Head of Digital and Content, said: “Understanding and responding to themes like sustainability and climate change, diversity and inclusion, ethical supply chains, recognition of First Nations people, and acting with business integrity, are all contributing factors to fostering brand belonging.

“We know that building belonging is good for business. For employers, high levels of belonging have been linked to better job performance and higher levels of productivity, a decline in turnover risk and a significant reduction in sick days - all of which result in tangible bottom-line benefits. For brands, building belonging creates long-term customer trust and loyalty which in turn produces a deep connection to the brand, its products and services. As marketers and communicators, we play a critical role in helping realise this value."

The report's findings are based on Sefiani’s survey of 100 Australian communications leaders, 500 Australian consumers and 500 employees, undertaken in partnership with global research firm Censuswide.

Read the full "Communication that Matters Report: Building Brand Belonging" here.

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