Why Marketers Should Make Brand Building a Priority in 2020
As the digital landscape has expanded in recent years—along with the variety of advertising opportunities within it—many marketers have fallen guilty to prioritizing short-term marketing schemes over long-term brand initiatives in the pursuit of quick business wins. Given Forrester’s forecast that CMOs are currently fighting for survival, this shift in tactics makes sense; marketing executives need timely turnarounds on their efforts in order to demonstrate the value they’re delivering to their companies.
However, focusing on tactics intended for quick returns comes at the expense of valuable brand building, which could consequently stunt business growth. Even well-known brands are making the mistake of overspending on performance-marketing strategies designed to garner quick wins. Take Gap for example, which admitted prior to the pandemic that it had been advertising its discounts at the expense of building brand loyalty for Old Navy. But episodic marketing ploys quickly tire, leaving company resources depleted and audiences still unsure of what a brand stands for. The latter is especially problematic given today’s consumers’ increasing desire to invest in brands that align with their personal values. With this in mind, marketers who want to succeed in the 2020s need to refocus their strategies on establishing a distinct brand character that resonates with audiences.
Presenting a strong brand image tied to an upstanding value proposition is especially relevant as companies find their footing within today’s coronavirus-concerned climate, as exemplified by American Airlines. In a new video, the airline taps its brand heritage to affirm its commitment to customers despite being largely unable to service them for the time being. Accordingly, a recent FreeWheel survey reveals that more than 40 percent of consumers have “positive feelings” toward brands whose ads mention COVID-19 (though another 34 percent experience no change in feelings). As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, sharing thoughtful, branded stories is a strong way for companies to stay connected with audiences without explicitly pushing superfluous products or services on them.
When considered in tandem with the growing variety of marketing channels, this increase in consumer selectivity presents opportunities—rather than challenges—for businesses looking to strengthen the value perception of their offerings due to the specialized natures of those channels. By drawing in already-filtered audiences, newer channels serve as promising openings for brands to make lasting first impressions on potential consumers, which have the power to foster long-term loyalty and drive future sales.
Emerging Channels Provide Promising Brand-Building Platforms
While existing digital avenues can trap marketers into short-term snares such as punchy yet impersonal commercials or unfocused media adverts, newer channels like OTT offer ample opportunity for brands to strengthen their public profiles through value association.
With today’s consumers spending increasing amounts of time consuming content and media—especially now as COVID-19 has prompted stay-at-home advisories around the globe—brands not only have more access to them than ever before, but due to new platforms’ increasing opportunities for personalization by users, brands can also better target and reach desired audiences. This improved targeting is critical, as brands tend to see greater yield when they appeal to a more specific audience that is most likely to buy their product—even if it’s a smaller pool of individuals—than by marketing to general audiences.
Despite touting themselves as ad-free, emerging channels such as streaming services or e-gaming can be harnessed for innovative and nuanced marketing placements. On these platforms, brands can strategically present their products in content that supports their defined values and to audiences that are therefore more likely to be receptive to a brand’s offerings. For example, featuring products in movies or TV shows allows companies to shape their brand perceptions by associating themselves with the value and themes those programs represent. While less explicit than other digital promotions, integrating products within these platforms has the power to resonate more deeply with consumers—and thereby inspire greater action from them—because they are appearing within trusted content.
From KFC in Netflix’s Stranger Things to Miller Light in multiple Hulu productions—both of which invoke nostalgia and a sense of pop-culture coolness to spur consumer interest—stimulating product placements is becoming an increasingly appealing method to marketers looking to make a strong advertising impact in a subtle, nuanced way.
Marketers Can Expand on Initial Brand-Building with a Full-Funnel Approach
Once brands establish an initial connection with audiences, marketers can use those sentiments to fuel marketing initiatives throughout the consumer journey—a strategy that is otherwise known as the full-funnel approach.
Adopting a full-funnel approach allows marketers to make the most of a consumer’s purchasing journey by assuring they build a continuous dialogue with consumers to reaffirm brand values and sustain consumer engagement with the brand throughout. Once a brand presents the values it promises to uphold during the awareness phase via emerging channels, marketers need to then strategize how to convey those values at each step of the consumer journey. This includes understanding and paying due attention to the impact of creative on brand equity, which can make or break advertising execution.
To emphasize, it is only once marketers have made a strong initial impact on consumers that they should return to data-driven metrics designed to assure consumer conversions, and even then, marketers should still be operating with the goal of affirming brand character. When thoughtful measures are employed during the awareness phase of the full-funnel approach, the outcome of all future marketing initiatives is bolstered because audiences already feel a connection to the brand and are consequently more inclined to engage with it. This approach of sowing consumer affinity now in the hopes of seeing a later return is particularly appealing nowadays, as many consumers may find themselves unable to make purchases due to financial hardships caused by COVID-19.
Brand building needs to be a priority to marketers working to keep their companies relevant in this modern market and climate. To effectively build their brand’s character while still catering to the demands of business growth, marketers should embrace a full-funnel approach when devising their marketing plans, giving increased attention to mastering the marketing potential of emerging digital channels.
David Hohman is executive vice president and managing director of Nielsen Media Demand Side, responsible for all agency and advertisers relationships as well as its Global Performance Measurement Practice. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Hohman has specific expertise deploying advanced analytics solutions that optimize the effectiveness and profitability of multichannel marketing initiatives. Prior to joining Nielsen, he led multiple client engagements across the IPG network of agencies. His client experience spans the retail, automotive, government, technology, telecommunications, healthcare and financial services verticals.