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A wave of unprecedented consumer influence is spreading across the world, claims latest research

A wave of unprecedented consumer influence is spreading across the world. As Ben Burton, managing director, corporate, at communications firm Weber Shandwick London, says “’The customer is always right’, is now much more than an adage, it’s a mandate.” Burton is discussing a study from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, The Company behind the Brand II: In Goodness We Trust, conducted amongst consumers and senior executives across 21 global markets. Burton says this report shows how empowered consumers feel – and how brands are having to take notice.

Key findings

The study found that nearly nine in 10 global consumers (86%) believe they are a powerful force in influencing companies today. Even more global executives (91%) agree. Such power has expanded dramatically in recent years, as nearly seven in 10 consumers (68%) report that companies are influenced more today by consumer opinions than five years ago. Six in 10 executives (59%) have observed the same phenomenon.

To what extent do you feel companies are influenced by consumer opinions today?

Compared to five years ago, are companies today influenced more, the same, or less by consumer opinions?

Source: The Company behind the Brand II: In Goodness We Trust, Weber Shandwick & KRC Research, 2017

Burton describes how social media has emboldened the influence consumers have: “Nearly a quarter of consumers (23%) say they are increasingly connecting with the companies that they buy from via social media. This figure rises to 31% among some of the world’s youngest consumers, the millennials. Nowadays, consumers have the ability to interact with companies and brands in ways marketers could not have imagined even a decade ago. The onus is on the companies to respond efficiently and effectively.

“Consumers have a variety of ways to exert their influence and many believe that the most effective ways are through reader reviews (59%) or information sharing (56%). To a lesser extent, but also powerful according to nearly half of consumers (48%), is opening or shutting their wallets – buying from or boycotting companies.”

As consumers become more able to influence a company’s reputation and profitability, it is not surprising that companies are feeling their power. Burton says: “Interestingly, executives are even more likely to feel that companies are affected by consumers sharing information (68%) and reviews (67%). Many also think that wallet-power and direct company contacts are influential (57% and 49%, respectively). Whilst a small, but double-digit, segment of consumers (12%) believe that they can’t personally influence a company, none of the executives feel that way. In this regard it seems that consumers underestimate their own strength.”

Burton describes the best way forward for those in charge of PR and marketing: “Companies are clearly feeling the effects of a consumer-driven brand-building model. Consumers are in charge, but marketers need to keep their eyes on the prize. The quality of a brand’s products and services should speak for themselves so communications teams must instead focus their efforts on ensuring that they have the right story, content and channel strategy to nurture a positive reputation in such a competitive marketplace.”


The Company behind the Brand II: In Goodness We Trust, is based on research conducted amongst 2,100 consumers and 1,050 senior executives across 21 global markets.

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