97% of consumers expect brands to use technology responsibly, but focus on innovation, study says
- Nearly half of consumers think technology can help them do more in less time or enhance sustainability, but 97% say brands are responsible for using technology ethically while focusing on customer-centric innovation, according to findings of the WE Communications Brands in Motion 2018 study. The research, which was conducted across eight global markets, examined rational and emotional drivers of consumer choice to uncover how brands are faring across geographies, industries and stakeholders.
- The study found that 84% of consumers worry that their personal data is not secure; 67% worry about being a pedestrian with more self-driving cars; and, 54% worry that artificial intelligence will take their jobs. Most consumers, or 94%, think the government should step in if brands can't use technology ethically.
- The computing device category fell significantly, after having the highest consumer admiration previously. The smart home category is growing, despite 63% of respondents worrying that their phones are listening to them, and 84% worrying that their personal data isn't secure.
The findings highlight a growing imperative for marketers in the digital era to act responsibly and ethically with technology even as consumers demand innovation. While digital tech has long benefited from a halo effect that shielded it from some potential blowback as its influence as grown, this may now be weakening, putting pressure of brands to think more ethically.
"Collectively the data signals that although the tech halo is strong, consumer anxiety over disruptive technologies and reactions to technology misuse may be stronger," according to a statement about the report. "These fears could continue to be a negative influence on tech-heavy categories unless they start to anticipate and get ahead of consumers' ethical expectations."
Finding that back this up include that consumers' demands for transparency is overtaking their need for an emotional connection to a brand, with brand motion scores up 16% for rational drivers of consumer choices and 14% for emotional drivers from 2017 to 2018. Consumers are expecting brands to deliver on their promises and are showing loyalty to a smaller number of brands, the research found.
Overall, the Brands in Motion survey reveals consumers' complex feelings about technology, seeing it as a problem-solver, but also feeling anxiety when it comes to privacy and data security, which likely have been intensified by controversies like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal. A noteworthy finding is that most consumers think government intervention is needed if brands can't self-regulate their technology use.
Other research has also uncovered consumer expectations for their favorite brands to take a stance on the political and social causes and issues most important to them. Millennials and Gen Z are most adamant about brands being socially responsible and careful about brands that they support. Recent research from MediaCom found that teenagers, age 16-19, have purchased or stopped purchasing a brand because of its ethics, and more than two-thirds are more likely to purchase from brands that support the causes most important to them, and willing to pay more to support those brands. However, teens are skeptical of brands' claims to support causes.