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It’s no wonder consumers are becoming increasingly distrustful of technology, given the string of scandals that have emerged against the sector and ongoing drawn out fears around privacy and data protection.

In the second annual study compiled by Brands In Motion in partnership with WE Communications and YouGov, consumers revealed that they wanted brands to innovate, but that they also wanted to see technology being used more ethically and responsibly.

With fears that personal data is being compromised and online safety is not guaranteed by brands, respondents admitted that if brands can’t use technology ethically, then it should be up to governing bodies to step in and regulate the industry.

“It’s a real responsibility for brands to not only use technology to innovate but to start to engage with consumers and stakeholders and think: we could do this, but should we do this?” asks WE’s president of international, Alan VanderMolen. “Misuse of data and toxic content have radically changed the landscape for tech innovation in the past 12 months. Consumers are giving brands an ultimatum: self-regulate or be regulated.”

Almost 27,000 people were surveyed across eight markets, including Australia, China, Germany, India, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and the US, looking at 90 brands across the following industries: automotive, computing devices, finance and banking, food and beverage, health and wellness, prescription health, smart home and tech B2B.

The research also considered the rational and emotional motivations for customers to make certain brand decisions, finding that consumers rated purchasing rationally higher than having an emotional connection with a brand in all markets, except the UK.

All other markets especially those in emerging markets like India, China and South Africa, displayed greater optimism towards brands, believing technology could help to elevate a brand and allow them to accomplish even more.

VanderMolen cites a country’s socio-political context as one of the underlying factors for explaining consumer habits, even believing that the #MeToo movement plays its part. He thinks brands should be particularly mindful of the sort of language they use and encourages brands to rethink the way in which they engage with stakeholders.

“There’s a shift from ‘tell me’ to ‘show me and prove it’,” he says. “It’s becoming more difficult for brands to be admired and our research shows consumers don’t think twice about shaming a previously-loved brand.”
The research also revealed that consumers are increasingly favoring brands that display a high level of functionality and effectiveness rather than those that have a high level of purpose. Most consumers want brands to have a balance of both, so the survey discovered that mangy agencies are intent on setting up practices focused on this area – to appeal to more consumers.

“There is a purpose bandwagon but brands have to have permission to focus on purpose, especially established brands,” he adds.  “They need to have a high degree of functionality and deliver what they say they will deliver, as well as meeting legal and ethical requirements: they need the 'what' and the 'how' before the 'why' that makes a difference.”

The survey also found that the computing device sector – once, the sector of highest consumer admiration – had lost its popularity in the last year and was replaced by smart home, which had surprisingly ascended dramatically despite conversations about tech disruption, data privacy and security.  

Brands still have a lot to learn from consumer behavior but listening to customer demands and concerns around technology will only help to strengthen their position within the market. Take note!