16th May 2019
Brand & Comms Insights - Making sense of the complexity
At 56 Degree Insight we bring a passion and expertise developed over many years working with clients across a range of sectors. As we approach our launch in June we will be sharing some details on our offer, our points of view and our recent experiences working in each of these areas. This week, let’s take a look at the increasingly complex world of the marketeer - trying to create a comprehensive brand and communications strategy within a multi channel world…..
Our changing world
In the early 1990s when we started our careers in market research, things were a whole lot simpler for marketeers.
The communication channels to choose from when creating a campaign were pretty much limited to television, radio and press ads, direct mail and outdoor - potentially supported by some PR activity and collateral such as brochures.
Our job in the ‘research department’ was also simpler, a typical marketing evaluation study in the tourism industry might involve a postal survey to the recipients of that season’s brochure or direct mail campaign to find out if the materials had influenced them in any way to take a holiday.
However in the 25+ years since, the communication channels available to marketeers have exploded. The digital revolution has been the biggest driver of this change; the first ever online advert was posted in 1994 (an annoying popup for AT&T!) but forecasts predict that by 2021 over half of global advertising spend will be spent online.
Alongside this proliferation in communication channels, the rise of social media has further complicated the situation. 25 years ago we understood the importance of word of mouth communications and how customers who’d had a bad experience were much more likely to chat to their friends, family and colleagues than those who’d had a good experience.
Social media and online reviews have magnified the power of word of mouth – brand advocates who share their positive experiences online can provide a strong, authentic voice to support a brand’s ‘owned communications’ but, on the flipside, negative experiences are also amplified and once negative experiences are shared it can be difficult for brands to take control.
These changes can present many challenges for companies as they decide how best to invest in their brand and communications.
How to make it hang together?
With a multi-channel campaign there is a risk that the communications seem disjointed and consumers feel that they are bombarded and/or receiving mixed messages, providing them with an incoherent view of the brand. This can lead to confusion or even irritation, reducing the effectiveness of the campaign or damaging the strength of the brand.
Recent customer research (Kantar 2018) demonstrated that better integrated campaigns were more effective. Brands need to choose the right channels to reach their customers and must ensure integration by, for example, employing similar brand cues across channels. For example, consistency in the personality/character featured, the same voice over, logo and strapline.
However, media also needs to be customised to the channel used. Online adverts which simply repurpose a 30 second advertisement made for television won’t work for those who are viewing on their phone, sneaking a peak at Facebook at work or hovering over the ‘skip ad’ button. Online ads need to be much shorter, feature the brand at the start, cut to the chase and work just as well with or without sound.
Short term sales or long term brand building?
With the rise of digital, the return on investment of online marketing activities can be easily measured through metrics such as click through rates, leading to an increased focus on the short-term efficiency of activities. At the same time, declining marketing budgets have led to a greater focus on the short term. Today’s boardrooms want to see a quick return on their spend with an improved performance in the next month or quarter.
As a result, industry statistics show how spend on marketing channels which focus on driving short term sales have grown, at the expense of ‘slower burn’ brand building.
However, while such short term, sales driven activity definitely plays an important role, particularly for growing brands who want to reach and acquire new customers quickly, to retain customers and justify a premium position, marketing activity also needs to build lasting emotional connections. This require creatives which are often most effectively communicated through ‘traditional’ channels such as cinema, television and press advertising.
Getting the right balance between short term sales focused and long term brand building activities will of course reflect a company’s ambitions and their campaign objectives. However, as demonstrated by the increasing advertising presence of big digital brands such as Facebook, Amazon and Uber on television and in the press, it is clear that the traditional media still have an important role to play.
How to keep it real and build trust?
A recent study (Credos 2018) showed that public favourability towards advertising is at an all time low (25% versus 48% in 1992). With the rise of ‘fake news’, consumers are increasingly suspicious of what they see and hear in the media. Marketing activities, and concerns over data breaches and how our personal data is being (mis)used is further eroding trust.
This loss of trust can create dilemmas for brands.To have a long term effect brands need to build an emotional connection with consumers, aligning their values with their customers. However their brand values, positioning and the messages they communicate needs to feel authentic. An extreme example of this challenge is the rise of ‘woke marketing’ where brands demonstrate their awareness of social and political injustices, for example the recent “The Best Men Can Be” advertisement from Gillette. Done well this approach can create a positive buzz around the brand and what they stand for that drives up awareness and brand strength. However, if badly executed, the messages communicated can appear fake or to be trivialising a serious issue with dire consequences for brand reputation (think of the Pepsi ads featuring Kendall Jenner).
And while consumers don’t want to be bombarded with irrelevant advertising, the use of digital technology which can personalise and improve the targeting of adverts, can also cause them to worry about how personal data is being used. A balance needs to be found between consumers willingly sharing data so that they receive more relevant advertising and increasing worries over data misuse or that our phones and other in-home devices are snooping on us.
At 56 Degree Insight we can help our clients to navigate this increasing complex marketing landscape. We have the tools and experience needed to help you to plan your marketing activity so that you choose the right channels, get the balance right between short and long term performance and find ways to communicate that build trust and credibility.