The consumer is at the core of every brand.
Brands seek to understand and respond to what people want, need, expect and desire, constantly striving to create, craft and develop differentiated products to meet, and indeed, exceed these expectations, reflect aspirations and address needs. Brands do this using the most effective combination of different elements, whether that be design, innovation, trends, beliefs, traditions, functionality, durability, precision or craftsmanship.
Branding innovation: Perceptions of a brand are shaped by the way it interacts with people, remains current with product or service expectations and whether consumers feel truly connected to what the brand is doing, in that it reflects their values and choices. To maintain that crucial connection with consumers, brands continually evolve, analysing consumer trends and markets, to anticipate what people will want tomorrow – adjusting to societal trends, new technologies and the consequent changes in consumer behaviour.
Consumers are increasingly turning to brands not just as consumers, but also as citizens. Purposeful citizens are inspiring brands, who can become symbolic entities that assist people in shaping and expressing their individual and social identities. Now, more than ever, consumers increasingly manifest their expectations of brands in their brand interactions, either through online activities, participation in consumer brand communities or brand advocacy activities.
Digitisation has heralded an evolution in the consumer-brand relationship. Consumers have become increasingly engaged with brands, so much so that the consumer has become a more active contributor to the brand creation, alteration and management process, particularly using new technologies such as Augmented Reality. Personalisation will be a powerful new market of the future, driven by individual needs and aspirations.
Consumers are also inspired and influenced in their digital journey by friends, peers, social networks, online communities that resonate with their values, countless reviews, shared data, linked information, to name but a few. Driven by this connected world, and infinite ‘digital shelves’ that are now a finger-swipe away, the traditional retail landscape is changing at a rapid pace. With this comes fundamental changes in the consumer goods industry to respond to the needs and expectations of Connected Consumers. Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and responsible data management are some of the newer elements that form part of the brands repertoire in communicating with consumers. Brands do this with care, considerate of our consumers who have entrusted us to accompany them on this digital journey with respect and responsibility.
One key area of AIM’s priorities is to ensure that consumers are not deceived when purchasing branded goods irrespective of the sales channel. The same rules should apply in offline and online stores.
AIM has been working for such protection with one very simple goal – if consumers buy fake goods, they should know about it. AIM believes this goal will serve everyone – consumers, business partners and society – in the long-run as it will ultimately lead to more trust in the online retail environment and further build the Digital Single Market in Europe.
Consumers must have trusted and transparent information about the products they buy.
This information can refer to the social impact of a product, for example, human rights or sourcing; it can refer to health, such as nutrition or hygiene; it could also provide environmental information, such as climate impact or packaging; information on safety is also provided. Information needs to be effective to empower and enable consumers to make informed choices.
Getting it right for consumers, with consumers
There are challenges in providing information in the right context. It is essential that information targeted at the consumer is carefully evaluated in terms of consumer benefits, feasibility and comprehensibility. The growing number and complexity of mandatory information requirements can affect consumers adversely. The provision of too much, complex or conflicting information can leave consumers no better informed, create confusion, undermine consumer trust and add unnecessary costs for producers. To address this in a practical and appropriate way, AIM developed together with the European consumer organisation BEUC “Common Principles of Consumer Information” based on reliability, usefulness, accessibility and proportionality. In our joint initiative “Smarter Logos, better informed consumers”, both organisations have furthermore tested these principles on logos, identifying challenges and recommendations for EU policy makers on how to enhance the usefulness of logos for consumers.
Avoiding Single Market fragmentation
Another challenge is divergent non-harmonised marking requirements on, for example environmental sustainability information across the EU. This can create unjustified barriers to trade and bear the risk of Single Market fragmentation. If Member States take unilateral measures on marking, their ability to import/export packaged goods across the internal borders of the EU will correspondingly be limited. This would have a chilling effect on investment and innovation for circularity, growth and jobs in Europe. It would also affect consumers in terms of both price and product choice.
Implementing the highest data standards
The growing number of consumer transparency initiatives managed by third parties evaluate brands on different sustainability aspects. Unfortunately, most of this is based on inaccurate data, thereby affecting and potentially undermining consumer confidence in brands. AIM’s objective is to implement globally harmonised data and data validation standards in Europe to ensure data quality and accuracy. This serves as the basis for the development of a trusted source of product data covering different product aspects that consumers can access easily on their mobile phones wherever and whenever they need it. In this context, AIM works together with the Consumer Goods Forum, the global consumer goods retailers and manufacturers’ organisation, with EuroCommerce, the European retailers and wholesalers association, and GS1, the global standardisation body.
AIM Manifesto: No Data, No Claim
To empower consumers to play their part in the Circular Economy, reliable, relevant, clear, understandable and EU harmonised information about the sustainability features of a product, such as environmental aspects, proper waste disposal, anti-littering and recycling, is key. This is one of the central points in AIM’s recently published Manifesto “No Data, No Claim” – Consumer empowerment in the green transition through clear and relevant sustainability information for all consumer products.
AIM, the European Brands Association, supports the Commission’s various initiatives regarding product sustainability information for consumers, substantiating green claims and tackling greenwashing, to ensure the continuing veracity and relevance of product claims related to environmental attributes. We need a coordinated, harmonised and holistic approach, bringing together the different measures that relate to the various aspects of consumer information.
The AIM Manifesto outlines among others AIM brands’ priorities regarding on-pack and digital consumer information, the call for establishing a European Stakeholders Forum for Digital Consumer Information, brands’ green claims paradigm “No Data, No Claim”, the substantiation of green claims based on robust, commonly recognised and science-based methodologies, as well as the Nudging for Good concept to inspire more sustainable consumer behaviour.
AIM Publication: Nudging for Good Factsheet
Through their daily interaction with consumers, branded goods manufacturers are well placed to facilitate change towards more sustainable and healthier consumer choices and lifestyles. However, there is still a gap between consumer intentions and actual behaviour. In this context, policy-makers, academics and businesses acknowledge that in addition to an appropriate sustainability policy framework for business and society, more work is required on behavioural aspects and specifically, the potential of “nudging” consumers to help them change their consumption habits and lifestyles. A “Nudge for Good” is how a brand, on the basis of consumer insights, makes it easy and desirable for people to change behaviour or habits and adopt a healthier, sustainable or responsible lifestyle. Branded goods manufacturers, with their unique consumer insights, communication and marketing skills, have a key role to play in this debate.
In 2015, AIM launched its initiative Nudging for Good to:
In this context, AIM has developed the Nudging for Good Toolkit, which provides practical guidance for brands on how to create nudges to help people adopt healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. An overview on the Brands Nudging for Good topic can be also found in our Nudging for Good Factsheet.
Additionally, every two years, AIM organises the Brands Nudging for Good Awards in order to promote original brand “Nudges for Good” by AIM corporate and national association members. Building on the success of the first edition of the AIM Nudging for Good Awards in 2017, the 2019 Awards contest focused on how brands inspire consumers towards mindful, responsible and sustainable consumption. The three Awards themes were Health & Well-being, Environmental Sustainability and Social Responsibility.