Taking a genuinely consumer-centric approach to understanding and evaluating your brand experiences will save you valuable marketing dollars by revealing hidden opportunities.
In one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons, corporate marketers huddle around a conference room table. ‘We need to know how our customers live and work,’ the boss insists, ‘I’d like each of you to write fictional biographies that describe the daily lives of our typical customers!’.
Hopefully, scenes like that are rare in the real world – but it’s illustrative of how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day and rely on inward-facing sources to fuel insights about what works and what doesn’t in a marketing campaign.
The truth of the matter is, every brand has its own “superpowers.” Here are the four steps that will get you on your way to revealing yours – without needing to write a book of fictional biographies.
1. Walk the walk: truly take a consumer-first approach to understand your brand
If I asked you how you are spending your marketing dollars, you could probably draw a pie chart fairly quickly and allocate the largest portion to TV, digital, or whatever platform the core of your strategy sits. However, if I asked you to draw a pie chart of how people are experiencing your brand – every time they come across it, whether using/consuming, ads, your website, sponsorship logos, & even conversational recommendations, etc. – would you know where to start? Many brands don’t, which means that they’re missing a valuable lens to reveal and leverage their brand’s superpowers to optimize their brand experiences.
2. Reveal hidden growth drivers: Analyze Your ‘Owned’ and ‘Earned’ media experiences and paid advertising.
The evolution of consumer-centricity requires brands to take a holistic view of the activity and the experiences they are creating across all touchpoints – because you can bet your bottom marketing dollar that those taking the lion’s share of the marketing budget won’t encompass the lion’s portion of how consumers are experiencing your brand.
In fact, on average, around a third of brand interactions are with paid advertising channels. Thus, if you are evaluating your marketing experiences to impact brand perceptions, then you are missing three-quarters of the picture and a huge opportunity to impact your bottom line! Furthermore, if these experiences are left unevaluated or only evaluated in silos, they may work against what your marketing dollars are trying to accomplish. For example, retailer ads might showcase your ‘premium’ brand as part of a flash sale, ruthlessly countering your hard-working premium brand positioning activity.
Brands can’t afford to ignore these hard-to-reach touchpoints anymore, especially as innovations in research methodologies and technology are enabling superior data capture. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that owned and earned channels are actually more impactful at driving brand consideration among retail banking customers than paid-for advertising touchpoints.
3. Evaluate brand interactions in real-world settings and get real-world results so you can leverage to maximize investments with confidence.
Even when third parties are recruited to evaluate and optimize marketing and brand activity, they often do so in a way that is, to varying degrees, removed from a real-world setting. This distance can impact the way participants respond to certain stimuli. The importance of recording context is often overlooked, but its significance is evident across many psychological studies. For example, commuters, who are on their way home from work, tend to be more engaged with financial service messages featured on posters in trains and stations. Whereas, when commuters are on their way to work, they are less engaged with these same posters because their attention is limited and they are focused on the day ahead.
Additionally, certain settings can help people process ads better. For example, when a video ad requires more effort to process, it is rated more positively- especially when there is a captive audience that has the time to process it, thus the ideal place for this ad is the cinema.
Revelations like this are from ‘real-world’ data and have huge implications for how to get the most out of your marketing investments, including not just budget allocation, but also sequencing. The example above implies the benefit of launching complicated video ads via cinema, where the message can be fully processed and digested, then moving investment to TV, where attention may be more limited but seeing it can serve as a ‘reminder’ of previous experiences.
The importance of context has also been highlighted with digital mishaps, ranging from amusing (e.g. a fast food billboard showcasing a huge, indulgent treat next to an ad to raise awareness of heart disease) to jarring (e.g., a Medal of Honor website takeover with guns pointed everywhere over peaceful images accompanying everyday stories!). Some brands have learned expensive lessons with these mishaps, but without the context, how could they know what wasn’t working and how to change it?
4. As part of a holistic ecosystem, compare brand interactions on equal ground to ensure efficient decision-making across channels, as well as within them.
Performance of touchpoints should be looked at in an apples-to-apples comparison so that clear and confident investment decisions can be made at a high level to maximize the potential of hidden drivers. For example, in a study across major retail banking brands, the brand that had the least engaging poster/billboard experiences (at just 33% positivity) had the most engaging app experiences (73% positivity). In such a situation, showcasing a fantastic app within ads provides exponential improvements because it introduces non-customers to its charms and triggers a strong, emotional response from customers who already use and love it. Conversely, if you’re falling behind on App performance, a side to side comparison is a great tool for comprehensive evaluation, which can inform you how to reinvest market allocation and upgrade your App or Website to increase your ROI on those dollars.
Capturing your full ‘brand interaction ecosystem’ can also reveal strengths to inform specific response tactics. For example, strategically re-allocating investments and pivoting towards purpose-driven messaging can help brands recover from a PR crisis. Certain message types remain engaging in the wake of negative news stories, while others can enrage the audience and drag out the recovery period, thus impacting brand health, sales, and ultimately wasting marketing dollars. If you know what message types will continue to elicit a positive emotional response, despite the negativity in the broader ecosystem, then you can react quickly to reinvest in up weighting certain content and down-weighting others to project your brand.
Uncovering your hidden drivers will provide a clear road map on how to reallocate funds towards more cost-effective investments that are impacting your brand and increase ROI. Good luck searching for your brand’s superpowers!