Attitude and Consumption: How Brands Position Themselves

More and more, people are asking about the attitude of a brand, whether it is socially, ecologically, or politically oriented. Alexander Glück, Managing Director of Brand Consulting at the advertising agency Pahnke GmbH & Co. KG knows how brands with a focus on morale and consumption differ. His conclusion: it does not always have to be either/or.

If you think of a brand with a strong attitude, you probably quickly think of Frosch. Yet, the brand for cleaning and care products is not a pure attitude brand at all, but a consumer brand with a strong attitude. “There are very few concrete attitude brands,” says Alexander Glück of the advertising agency Pahnke GmbH & Co. KG. He leads the Brand Consulting division and thus knows the product market and the needs of consumers in detail. He defines what distinguishes an attitude brand from a consumer brand according to the original purchase intention. Do consumers buy the products of this brand because of theirmindset, or because of the functional and sometimes also emotional benefits of the product?

Attitude must be the first criterion

“A pure attitude brand is Viva con Agua,” Glück reports. “Because the idea actually originated in fighting against water scarcity and doing something good for the environment.” The origin did not lie in the fact that they were already active as water producers and then founded Viva con Agua. As a nonprofit organization, they don’t even pursue economic profit goals. “Building a company based on an attitude is a very different path,” he says. Another example that could be argued about, however, is Tesla, he says. “Elon Musk’s motivation was to provide an alternative to internal combustion engines.” He was not originally an automobile manufacturer and wanted to launch an additional project. “Elon Musk wanted to fundamentally change something with Tesla. And that’s it: attitude has to be the first criterion, otherwise it’s not an attitude brand either.”

Consumer brands are rethinking their purpose

“Consumer brands are, of course, entering more and more into the realm of attitude, though,” Glück says. “I would always title Frosch as a consumer brand as well, yet they have a strong attitude perception.” The claim of doing something good for the environment is set as a high priority here. Nevertheless, the functional benefit is in the foreground. Another example is Followfood. The organic food company came into being because the raw material chain is usually not kept transparent enough. “With such consumer brands with a strong stance, there is always an appeal: ‘Wake up! We have to do better!’” Lastly, Glück comes to Rügenwalder Mühle. “They come from a classic meat processing background and have been saying for years that something has to change.” That is why they have launched another range of vegan and vegetarian products. And it is now even larger than the one with meat products. “Here, you can really see the change in consumer needs. People now want to know where products come from, how they’re made, and how companies are positioning themselves.”

When the facade crumbles

Black Lives Matter, Fridays for Future: there are many movements which brands also join and show their colors. But how credible is that if you only speak out on certain occasions? “Actually, you’re pretty much always successful with attitude, because without it you can’t do anything these days,” says Glück. “But, of course, there is the question of how consistently you play out your stance.” As an attitude brand, he says, you have a duty to emphasize this consistency again and again, without contradiction. This then becomes a strong positioning that leads to success and can also have a polarizing effect. Nevertheless, not all brands have to fulfill this obligation one hundred percent. “Consumers also have to be a bit forgiving and not demand everything or nothing at all. Nevertheless, we are still talking about brands that are obligated to generate sales with their companies. Not everyone can speak free of revenues, as is the case with Viva con Agua. After all, there is usually a balancing act between generating profits in a business context and respecting a corresponding attitude.”

Sometimes, no statement is needed

Basically, it is authenticity that you need to pay attention to. Consumers appreciate it very much if you communicate transparently to the outside world why you choose what. Still, it is important to ask yourself whether you need to speak out on all issues and what your weighting as a company is in society. “If leading companies position themselves, that’s fine. But if the tenth cookie manufacturer says, I also want to hang my flag in the wind once again, then that is also an excessive demand for the consumers. And that’s not good either.” In this, social media is both a blessing and a curse. In the past, you had to book media space; today, you simply post a message. However, Glück points out that the research time is sometimes very short. That is how mistakes and contradictions arise. “If there’s something that distinguishes a real attitude brand, it’s consistency without contradictions,” Glück says. This must also be thought through, controlled, and consistently expanded from the top of the company. Making statements only under pressure is not very credible – and in the worst case, will attract negative attention and lead to a shitstorm.

In the dialog age, brands show transparency

Basically, the development of increasingly emerging attitudes is positive, says Alexander Glück. “In the past, people worked according to the scheme: manufacturers are senders, consumers are receivers. Today, however, we are in a dialog age and have to show transparency.” Maintaining a facade here, he says, is incredibly difficult to the point of being impossible. At Pahnke, he also looks after many clients who are not complete in their attitude and message positioning but are operating from middleground and still shaping the market. These brands take various measures to show attitude, for example in the direction of sustainability – especially important in the food industry. Saving packaging material, using energy particularly efficiently in production, you can also advertise with that. Packaging is the number one contact medium for reaching consumers. “And what’s important is that even if you’re not at the top yet, you’re on your way to doing good. And that’s a good direction.”

By Elin Wagner

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