One of the most fascinating things I have observed from the application of the Science of Engagement across European borders has been the differences and similarities in how the people of various nations engage.
Who could have doubted, for example, that German consumers (when asked about brands) would place greater store in Elements such as Integrity and Meaning and that brands looking to thrive there must first and foremost build trust and convey their place in the grand scheme of things? It’s also interesting that the same Elements rang true for “engineers” when we looked at different types of employees and how they engage with their employers, because if Germany is built on anything, it’s engineering excellence.
French consumers, on the other hand, are more taken with Enhancement (our hard-wired need to improve ourselves) and Aesthetics. Neither is a huge surprise in a country with such a rich artistic tradition and an engineer’s culture − whose ultimate raison d’etre is to try and improve everyone’s lot.
The Dutch were marked out by their love of Escape and Pleasure. This insight led to much discussion with Dutch colleagues, not about their reputation for a relaxed attitude to sex and drugs, but about their collective national fear of the sea breaking through the dykes and flooding the land, hence a need to escape and also to live for today.
And the Brits? They’re driven most strongly by Desire and Associations: a tendency to be influenced by the subconscious (the smells, sounds, tastes and sights of childhood and adolescence) and to respond most readily to brands that elicit desire. Perhaps the British are more emotional and passionate than their reputation for reserve suggests?
Given the Independence Referendum in 2014, it’s interesting that Scots more closely resemble the French than the British: Aesthetics and Enhancement are prominent; Desire and Associations less so. Vive L’Ecosse and the Auld Alliance.
So much for the reinforcement of stereotypes. What about the similarities between us? There are those who say the EU is doomed, but there is more than common economic interest binding us together. Examination of our data to determine which Elements most powerfully drive purchase throws up the same two Elements in pretty much every market.
Firstly, and most importantly, Belonging. Regardless of nation or culture, brands that create a strong sense of belonging among their audiences are much more successful at driving purchase. This works two ways: they make their consumers and customers feel truly part of their brand, and they also segue more fluently into their audiences’ world.
Secondly, some good news for those whose mission it is to make business honest. Respect is an almost equally powerful purchase trigger. It may sound obvious to say that people are much more likely to buy a brand that they respect, but for it to trump previous brand Experience, Access (and value) and Empathy in the race to secure purchase is quite extraordinary. A closer examination of the highest-scoring ‘Respect brands’ marks out those who fully integrate their CSR programme right across the business, from R&D to product to marketing. It would seem that authentic, purpose-driven CSR really does deliver bottom-line benefit.
There are other Elements that feature prominently across all markets – Herd Behaviour and Access being two of the most common – but none of them are as universally important to ensuring that people buy a company’s product or service. Whatever your market, category or industry, make people belong and win their respect and you will increase sales.
So there you have it: confirmation that, while each European nation has its idiosyncrasies – some are more rational, some more emotional and we all find our pleasures in different places – we are bound together by a fundamental need to belong and a tendency to spend more with those we respect.
What better argument for a unified Europe?