The Global Enraged: Core customer beliefs stack the deck against your company’s messages2012-10-10
(c) Can Stock PhotoNobody goes into the planning for a communications effort believing the customer is a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Knowing customers have interests, biases and other characteristics is the very reason we conduct audience research. Having seen new research from The Futures Company, however, I’m wondering if that research digs deep enough.
When we study the people who comprise our target market, the focus is squarely on their connection to our message. Underlying any consumer beliefs, however, is the way they feel about business in general. According to The Futures Company‘s Global MONITOR reserach, that foundational set of believes isn’t pretty.
An overwhelming 86 percent of consumers believe that companies put profits over the interests of their customers’ interests, according to a report on the study. That means any communication or marketing campaign faces a brick wall of skepticism. While marketing strategies may convince customers that a product or service will meet their needs, they don’t remove the suspicion around the company’s actual motives.
It gets worse. Eighty-five percent of consumers think business wields unfair amounts of influence over government. Eighty-six percent believe wealth is too concentrated among the wealthy and that the wealthy play by their own set of rules.
And half of these people are pissed off about it. The study describes this population as the “global enraged.”
These consumers represent “a powerful and potentially dangerous vanguard,” according to Global MONITOR head Michelle Singer. “Anger has pushed consumers past the tipping point.”
Understanding this inherent consumer belief should help convince organizations to behave in ways that lead customers to think of them differently. We’ve seen research, for example, indicating that most companies are not engaging in customer service or support through the social channels where customers expect to find help. If cost is the perceived reason, the lack of customer engagement through Facebook and Twitter serve only to reinforce the belief that companies act solely in the interest of the bottom line. Recognizing that customers come to the table with these beliefs already well ingrained can also help communicators convey an image of their organizations that accurately reflect values that go well beyond shareholder value enhancement, from commitment to the customer to CSR initiatives. Your focus needs to be on those aspects of company behavior that is important to your market.
Consumers are taking action based on their beliefs. For example, according to the report: “47% of these shoppers now bought locally-made goods when possible. Another 36% avoided purchasing products from firms with low ethical standards, as did 29% from global corporations.”
According to David Phillips, writing yesterday on Google Plus, “PR has a problem if it is not in a position to support both organisations and their constituents. This means they have to work much harder on the culture of organisations. It going to be tough to head off the rebellion even now.”
Encouraging your own company’s target market into the marketing funnel will be a lot easier if those customers don’t lump you into the same heap to which they consign most businesses. And understanding the degree to which this built-in bias characterizes your customer base should be part of your audience research.
The Futures Company is presenting The Global Enraged research on October 16 in London.