Ipsos Corporate Reputation

EMBARKING ON THE DATA INTEGRATION JOURNEY: SMOOTH SAILING

Communicators today are in the fortunate position where data is more abundant than ever; from reputation surveys to campaign measurement tools, business intelligence to employee feedback systems, and from media analysis to owned platform insights. The options for data collection and analytics are endless. However, making sense of this data and consolidating it into a useful system, where insights can be quickly drawn and communicated to leaders throughout the organisation is a daunting task.

A variety of data sources are used by communicators today, each providing different inputs to overall reputation measurement and management programmes.

Each of these data sources has a specific purpose within the communications environment. Social and traditional media analytics can help to determine how messages resonate and can provide intelligence regarding overall tone, sentiment, topics, and issues covered for a company versus its competitive set. Whereas issues monitoring can help a company keep abreast of regulatory issues that may impact the business environment. Reputation metrics and key stakeholder feedback can provide more detailed data about a company’s reputational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as a deeper understanding of what attributes will have the greatest impact on reputation.

Rather than looking back and only analysing what we have done, using it to inform what we could do or should do.”

The use of these various data sources runs the spectrum from not being utilized at all to integrated systems providing real-time intelligence for reputation monitoring and crisis management.

“We talk about data informed decision making, not data driven, and that is an important distinction. PR people have traded on their gut feel forever, “It feels like the right thing to do” or “It doesn’t feel like the right thing to do” and that gut instinct is really important and we shouldn’t lose that but we can’t trade on it anymore, we do have to have the data to inform the decision. It is how we interpret that data and the experience we bring to looking at that data and the gut feel that is critical. So that is why we say data informed.”

“We have information spread in the organization. We are not ready to take advantage of all we have [due to a] lack of tools and resources.”

“The team uses a lot of media listening, we are just starting social media listening and if you call it a data source, our monitoring, our media monitoring of ourselves and others.” 

“We have more data than we think, and we do not use it enough.”

“Live tracking of social media. I think what is critical is not to be too led by real-time data. Watch your trends but don’t watch for immediate [changes].”

“We look at data to see what the best route is of telling a particular story. We’re looking to see at what’s cutting through. What topics of a particular campaign worked or didn’t. We measure corporate reputation in 12 markets and report it quarterly.”

“When we look at research, we look at things in the immediate, mid-term, the long-term, and then the agile step in between. To start with immediate, we look at leading impressions and an understanding of where we are and how we’re playing. Sentiment is an important part of that. In crisis management, we’re not just looking at the value of the conversation but the velocity of the conversation.”

“The other thing is reputation tracking is important for us. We’re looking at [specific stakeholders] and understanding what drives reputation for them.”

With so many sources in use, how do communicators ensure they are utilizing the right data mix and taking a holistic picture into account when planning communications strategies, developing messaging, navigating today’s regulatory environment, or determining whether an issue is likely to turn into a full-blown crisis?

The key is successful data integration to merge data sets and create a system that allows for easy exploration of key topics, issues, trends and reputation metrics. Robust data integration platforms have the ability to bring together real-time social media data, online and traditional media, broadcast and video content, legislative and regulatory updates, and survey data into a common platform allowing for ease of data exploration and insight identification. The days of Boolean search strings to monitor static topics have given way to machine learning and topic modelling to identify related topics and issues in real-time data streams. Alerts can identify meaningful shifts in volume or sentiment on critical topics to provide an early-warning system to alert communicators of potential issues requiring attention. When paired with frequent survey data, an integrated data system doesn’t just display data side-by-side, but it instead is designed to track the key issues and attributes that have the greatest potential to impact reputation, as identified by deep survey exploration and using these as the basis for ongoing social and online media tracking.

The most sophisticated systems can utilize always-on survey data paired with real-time digital intelligence feeds to generate predictive analytics that help determine whether media stories or social content will have a meaningful impact on reputational metrics.

The takeaway from our Reputation Council members is that integrated data streams are becoming a more critical tool, allowing more timely, informed decisions on how to proactively manage reputation, navigate the issues environment, and monitor emerging crises. However, today, many communicators feel they have a long way to go before they truly have integrated data available. When asked how they would rate themselves on a 10-point scale, most put themselves somewhere in the middle – not completely siloed, but not very well integrated.

It’s a manual process really…through people getting together and sharing [their data].”

“In comms it is still very siloed at the moment. We have a data analytics team, a data science team who are pulling all data together from all our products and looking at it from an operational maintenance point of view, but from a comms point of view we are still a long way off.”

“We have a good dashboard, but we really lack this type of data integration.”

“We’re using AI and data lakes rather than trying to get a standard system in which everything goes into but actually has spiders that are able to crawl through. We’re looking into the extent to which we can predict how a story will impact our reputation.”

While data integration can take time and care to execute in a way that will be most beneficial to each organisation and comms team using it, data is not enough on its own. It’s critical that communicators have the expertise and resources available to extract insights, identify issues and trends, and be able to translate the data into a narrative that supports their objectives. Strong partnerships with market insights and analytics and working collaboratively with data analysts to be sure they understand the mission and objectives of the communications team will help to ensure these tools are utilized to the best of their ability.

“As a business we are still learning how to use data and what does it mean. Data is useless without the analytics.”

“Honestly, the function isn’t run by people who tend to be very good at data.”

“Data is the fundamental piece of information that [our internal stakeholders] are going to respond to and make a decision on. But you still need to tell a story and have a narrative.”

The data integration and analytics journey is one many communicators are just beginning to embark on, but one thing is certain – those who are able to harness the power of today’s data streams and analytical capabilities will be able to make smarter, faster decisions that allow them to separate true crises from turbulence, to capitalise on unique opportunities, and to design more effective strategies that result in positive reputational impact.

“This is one of our biggest opportunities – looking at how to bring all the sources together to draw intelligence and insights. [It’s a] huge opportunity on our priority list and we haven’t gotten to it yet.”

“The biggest growth area in corporate relations is your ability to analyze data effectively and make the right decisions. This will eventually be a part of each team within the corporate affairs team.”

“ONLY 19% OF COUNCIL MEMBERS FEEL THEY HAVE INTEGRATED DATA IN THEIR COMMUNICATIONS”

KEY POINTS:

01. The proliferation of data sources has put more information at communicators’ fingertips, but most communicators have not fully integrated their data sources, limiting the ability to develop fully-informed strategies.

02. Social media analytics and feedback from key stakeholders are the primary data sources used in corporate communications, but may lack the comprehensive insights needed to enable the best decision-making.

03. Reputation Council members desire greater data integration, but most are uncertain of the best methods to do so.

Reputation on the rise: Safeguarding your brand reputation through investment in cyber security

There is a difference, it seems, between knowing something and really knowing something. As a professional of 15 years’ experience in the brand reputation space there are a number of issues that I have to talk to clients about again and again, where it is clear that the people I am speaking to know, and largely agree with, what I am saying… but then either fail to take the appropriate action or come back and ask the same question a year or so later. There are a number of these issues; whether general public marketing affects the opinions of politicians is one, as are questions about how to improve trust.

One that is perhaps less obvious a question is the importance of cyber security to reputation. However, it is a topic that has come up frequently over the years, both from clients asking about it through to Ipsos writing articles and thought pieces on the subject. Myself and colleagues wrote about the cybercrime threat to reputation back in 2016 and 2017, and warned that businesses were perhaps overconfident and underprepared for the risks posed by cybercrime in both 2018 and 2019.

Nevertheless, we still got the sense that despite our clients knowing that cybersecurity is a potential threat to their hard-worn corporate reputation, they somehow didn’t really take it seriously. I get that IT is less sexy than marketing and events when it comes to reputation management, but it is certainly as important. Losing data on a large scale strikes a blow against any company’s ability to portray themselves as competent, well managed or trustworthy.

Nearly 9 in 10 senior industry leaders invest in cyber security to protect the reputation of the companies they work for. It’s high time you joined them.

Bearing all this in mind, I was enthused to see data in Ipsos’s 2020 Captains of Industry survey that seems to indicate senior business leaders are not only cognizant that cybersecurity is important from an operational perspective but also from the point of view of reputation management.

When asked directly to give the main reasons for investing in cybersecurity, nearly nine in ten Captains of Industry said that it was “to protect our reputation”, with 30% saying that it was the most important reason. Only business continuity was more important. This is a huge endorsement of cybersecurity as a reputational shield, and one that is being embraced by business leaders themselves rather than being forced upon them by shareholders or customer demand (the more traditional triggers for investment in cybersecurity).

Given the importance of reputation – it is now the third ranked factor that Captains of Industry look for when judging an organisation – the way cybersecurity is being directly linked to reputation is huge positive and suggests that business leaders (and my clients) are beginning to understand its importance. I would even go further and suggest that cybersecurity not only protects a firm’s reputation, but it also safeguards its financial performance and perceptions of the quality of its management, the top two factors listed by Captains of Industry when judging a company or organisation.

While I am under no illusion that questions about the importance of cybersecurity to reputation are going to go away, hopefully these results indicate that we have reached a tipping point and that soon cybersecurity will take its place alongside the other recognised and respected tools of reputation and brand managers.

For more information please contact:

Carl Phillips
Director & Global Stakeholder Research Lead
Corporate Reputation,
Technology Sector

Carl.Phillips@ipsos.com

Fashion Victims: The Losers in the Fast Fashion Race

What can comms. leaders learn from the challenges facing companies in the fashion Industry?

The fashion industry has been under the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons. The industry is going through a period of rapid change, brands and retailers are increasingly exposed to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues in their supply chains, resulting in an intensified threat to reputation. Just last summer Boohoo was caught up in allegations around poor working conditions and allegations of paying employees in their supply chain below the minimum wage.

The restrictions imposed on consumer life throughout the COVID pandemic have acted as a rare speed bump on an industry that has otherwise been evolving unabated at a frightening pace. Ipsos Sustainability Monitor (SBM) 2020 data reveals that over half of consumers (55%) are buying less clothing than they were pre-pandemic. With the world on pause we ask what’s next for the fashion industry? How do brands best navigate these issues? How engaged are consumers in these issues? And what can comms leaders, across all industries, learn from the challenges being faced by the fashion industry?

Fast Fashion: a quick overview

Fast Fashion: “Inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.”

Since the late 90s, globalisation has opened-up Western markets to cheaper labour in the East. Cheaper clothing and ever shortening fashion cycles (including the development of the weekly ‘micro season’) means that clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014, while the average number of garments purchased by the average Western consumer increased by 60% (McKinsey).[1]

Fast fashion is fuelled by celebrity culture, fads and the 24/7 nature of social media. SBM 2020 data shows that three-quarters of consumers agree that clothing and fashion are becoming cheaper and more throw-away in nature. And while just 14% of consumers say they feel under increased pressure to keep up with the latest trends and fashion, this rises to 24% among the youngest group (18-34 year olds). The fashion industry (and fast fashion in particular) are associated with serious ESG issues, outlined below.

Figure A) ESG issues typically associated with fast fashion (and the wider clothing industry)

  • Environmental issues: The fashion industry is considered by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to be the second largest polluter in the world, after the oil industry (UN)[2]
  • Social issues: Forced/ slave labour, child labour, dangerous working condition… The Clean Clothes campaign reports wages in Eastern markets are typically a fifth of average living wage there.[3] Average working days are 14-16 hours, 7 days per week (Clean Clothes Campaign)[4]
  • Governance issues: Overproduction is a massive issue. More than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year, (McKinsey)[5] with consumers keeping clothing on average half as long as they did 15 years ago

1) Ethical considerations and the impact on purchasing behaviour

ESG issues around fast fashion and the clothing industry have been widely reported. As consumer awareness grows, we might speculate that ethical considerations will come to take on more importance in the minds of consumers. But how much impact do ethical considerations have over clothes purchasing decisions?

When it comes to what actually drives clothes purchase decisions, the more conventional levers such as price style and quality hold the most sway. None-the-less almost a third of consumers say that ethical issues are one of the top 3 factors that influence their decisions over clothes purchases (and 8% say that it is their primary consideration).

In the era of fast fashion it is perhaps surprising that ‘trends’ (keeping up with friends, celebrities, social media and advertising) is the least selected factor influencing clothes purchases. Caveats should be applied (the results are self-reported and people might underplay the amount of influence trends hold on them, the sample is 18+, missing a key demographic target for fast fashion, teenagers). But the result does suggest that fast fashion is concentrated not only in small proportion of the worlds markets (Western markets) but also within a small proportion of the population within those markets. A small number of people are likely to be responsible for a lot of clothes purchases. While 30% of consumers say they buy more clothes than they need, this rises to 42% among those that say ‘trends’ are a top 3 influencing factor, and 55% among those that say that ‘trends’ are the primary influence on their clothes purchases (SBM data 2020).

#1. Know your customer: For 3-in-10 consumers ethical issues are a key decision-making criterion in what clothes they buy. Whether your business is in fashion or elsewhere, there is clear reputational risk in not being aware of, or not fully understanding what motivates and what matters to your customers.  

Chart B: Ipsos SBM data 2020: Clothing and fashion purchase decisions

2) Consumer disconnects over ethical issues

What consumers want they don’t necessarily get

Ethical issues play an important secondary role in clothing purchase decision making but what action do consumers think should be taken? Four-in-five consumers agree that brands and retailers should do more to help protect the environment and safeguard workers’ rights within their supply chains, and 77% of consumers say that clothing brands and retailers should provide more information. However, there is a large disconnect between what consumers want and what they get. Just 17% of consumers agree that the fashion industry provides enough information about the environmental and social impacts of the manufacturing of clothes.

Consumer good intentions not necessarily reflected by their actions

When it comes to taking personal action, although 56% of consumers say that if a clothing brand was associated with environmental pollution in its manufacturing process, they would be putting off from buying clothing from that brand, just 28% of consumers have researched brands that provide ethical clothing.

#2. Be transparent: As globalisation has increased the complexity of supply chains in the fashion industry, it’s becoming harder for many brands and retailers to maintain transparency. Whether your business is in fashion or elsewhere, consumers want to be able to make informed decisions, they want to be provided with clear and complete information (and they probably expect you to do at least some (if not all) of the legwork).

Chart C: Ipsos SMB data 2020 & Ipsos Sustainable Fashion Survey 2018 data: The disconnect between consumer good intentions and their actions

3) What's to be done?

Consumers clearly want more ethical accountability from brands and retailers. But by what means do they want this delivered? In 2019 the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published its “Fixing Fashion Report”[6] making 18 recommendations to the government to help clean up the industry, including;

  • Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million
  • More proactive approach to enforcement of the National Minimum Wage with greater resourcing for HMRC’s National Minimum Wage team to increase inspection and detection work
  • The Government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act

The Ipsos SBM 2020 survey tested what level of consumer support there would be for clothing and fashion brands and retailers that adopted similar commitments through their own volition. Across the 8 statements tested by the SBM survey (see chart D) between 67% and 78% of consumers said that the measures would make them feel more positively about a clothing brand or retailer. Commitments to national minimum wage (43%) and proof of compliance with the Modern Slavery Act (40%) had the most ‘much more’ positive impact. There are notable differences by demographics.

18-34 year olds are much more likely to say that they would be ‘much more’ positive about brands across all of these measures:

  • 44% of 18-34 year olds said they would be much more positive about brands that set themselves environmental targets compared to 24% of 55+ year olds
  • 44% of 18-34 year olds said they would be much more positive about brands that made commitments to using sustainable materials compared to 28% of 55+ year olds

Women are also much more positive across all of the measures:

  • 46% of women felt much more positive about stores that set-up in-store schemes to help customers recycle their old clothes compared to 30% of men
  • 40% of women felt much more positive about brands that helped to reduce textile waste compared to 25% of men

Women and millennials with disposable income form a key target audience for the fashion industry. As ethical and ESG considerations climb up the agenda they are likely to hold more influence over brand reputation and consumer purchase behaviours. If your clothing range is targeted at younger consumers and women in particular, then commitments to the environment and the wellbeing of employees in your supply chain is quickly transitioning from a nice-to-have to a necessity.

#3. Collaborate with your customers: There is clear support for measures that help clean up the fashion industry and reputational rewards are available for brands that adopt similar commitments. Whether your business lies in fashion or elsewhere it pays reputationally to align your business’s commitments to those of your customer. Take pride in your commitments and collaborate with your customers.

Chart D: Ipsos SBM data 2020: Impact of brand and retailer ethical commitments

4) Conclusion & Recommendations: An opportunity to build brand reputation

Fashion at its heart is an outlet for self-expression, choice, freedom, communication, it’s a vehicle to bolster confidence, for consumers to feel good about themselves. Exploitation and corporate greed aren’t a great look for brands trying to make their customers feel good about themselves. And there’s evidence that fashion brands are starting to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Model examples   

  • Sustainable materials & Slow fashion - H&M offers a new ‘Conscious’ range. To qualify the product must contain at least 50% sustainable materials e.g. organic cotton or recycled polyester. Levi’s ‘Water<Less’ collection uses up to 96% less water in its denim production. Patagonia only uses sustainable materials in their outwear. They champion “slow fashion” by helping customers repair garments and encouraging customers to recycle and buy second hand
  • Circular economy – TK Maxx ‘Give Up Clothes for Good’ campaign has recycled 1.6m bags of clothing since 2004. They also have a zero waste to landfill target. M&S ‘Shwopping’ partnership with Oxfam 30million garments swapped and £21million raised for people living in extreme poverty. The circular economy is based on reusing and recycling materials rather than throwing them away
  • Codes of conduct – TK Maxx operates a ‘vendor code of conduct,’ committing vendors to use no child or forced labour, protect employee rights on wages, working hours and adhering to health & safety regulations in the workplace

Whether or not we see a return to business as usual on the high street as COVID-19 subsides, consumers are expecting more from businesses and brands, challenging them to perform a social purpose beyond simply turning a profit. This increased scrutiny presents a risk certainly, but with it also a growing opportunity. Ipsos Corporate Reputation Centre has 40 years’ experience in helping global businesses navigate reputational challenges.

Ipsos Recommendations

1) Know your customer – understand what issues concern them and to what extent it concerns them. How does this impact how they perceive your brand?

2) Transparency & third-party endorsements – good brand reputation is built on trust. Third party endorsements such as the Fair-Trade Foundation and the Impact Report are a means to showing your customers that you care and take their concerns seriously. Avoid shortcuts and greenwashing and practise what you preach.

3) Collaborate & take pride – show consumers that you are on their side, that you want to make life easier and more straight forward for them and that you can help bring clarity, speed and convenience to the purchasing decisions that they care about. Collaborate and work in partnership with customers towards shared goals.

Article links

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula

[2] https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161

[3] https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/whats-wrong-with-the-fashion-industry#anchor-environmental-impact

[4] https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/whats-wrong-with-the-fashion-industry#anchor-environmental-impact

[5] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report.pdf

[6] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/2311/2311.pdf

For more information about how Ipsos can help you, get in touch:

Tom Cox
Research Manager
Corporate Reputation, Consumer Sector

Tom.Cox@ipsos.com