Consumers have long demanded innovation from brands, but research shows that in response to technology-based fears, they increasingly require brands use technology ethically and responsibly. WE Communications Brands In Motion 2018 global study examined the rational and emotional drivers that motivate customer choice and found three key themes: consumers hold brands accountable to use technology ethically, they want brands to deliver proof over promises and they want greater rationality and responsibility in their relationships with brands.

“We are seeing some compelling year-over-year shifts in customer attitudes,” says Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO of WE Communications. “Consumers continue to have high expectations for brands to use innovative technologies, but most are afraid of how those same technologies might disrupt their lives. These fears are causing consumers to demand greater accountability from brands."

Consumers have high expectations regarding technology’s ability to drive innovation, with nearly 50 percent of Brands In Motion 2018 respondents believing that technology will either help do more things in less time or create greater sustainability. However, this year’s study also found that 97 percent of consumers place responsibility squarely on brands to use technology ethically while continuing to drive customer-centric innovation. Technology scandals and unprecedented innovation is driving consumer anxiety, with 84 percent fearing that their personal data is not secure, 67 percent are unsure of about being a pedestrian in a world of self-driving cars and 54 percent worry artificial intelligence will take away their jobs.

WE Communications found that from 2017 to 2018, average global scores of brand motion in were up 16 percent for rational drivers and 14 percent for emotional drivers, illustrating how consumers' need for reason is outpacing their need to feel emotionally connected to a brand. Its study revealed that customer expectations continue to grow at an exponential rate and it’s growing more difficult for brands to surprise and delight consumers both emotionally and rationally. Data from WE Communications study suggests that while technology has a strong draw with consumers, their anxiety over disruptive and misused technology may be stronger.

Consumers’ expectations for greater rationality and responsibility in their relationships with brands are increases, with the report attributing it the backdrop of trade tensions, political unrest and technology angst. The 2018 study primarily clustered brands and categories in two categories, mover and defender, and the higher average scores mean it’s harder than last year to be a mover. Consumers around the globe are reserving their greatest love and appreciation for a smaller number of brands, and that they have strong convictions, one way or the other, about both sectors and brands.

“Consumer sentiment isn’t surprising if you look at the current global environment — from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, current struggles with content moderation and the GDPR, to the competing promise and apprehension attached to technologies like AI, blockchain and autonomous vehicles,” says Alan VanderMolen, WE’s president of international. “Brands have become the middle man, keeping the peace between lightning-speed innovation on one side and thoughtful ethics and regulation on the other. Consumers have now upped the ante and expect them to do more to drive stability in progress.”

Kass Sells, president of North America, WE, adds, “The Brands in Motion 2018 global survey data and corresponding insights present brands with a tremendous opportunity. With awareness of how customer perceptions, attitudes and demands have changed year over year, they better understand the forces of motion, their corresponding impact and where they can capitalize to better reach their most important stakeholders.”