As I think about ten “rock my world” changes going on in marketing and media, they fall into three broad themes: changing our approach to media planning; changing our thinking about building brands and understanding the changing consumer and world we live in. This blog is about the second big bucket, changing our approach to brand building. Click here for part one on media planning.
Here are a number of changes marketers need to get ahead of and what it means for new approaches to brand-building.
4. Understanding the new consumer and your brand influencers
Brand influencers are changing. People can “pull” any information they want via online search, including on mobile devices. Social media influence brand learning and shape choices as recommendations from friends and social media contacts (even strangers like in Yelp) are a highly trusted source of brand information. In this new environment, traditional advertising is still important, and even plays a new role. It becomes a source of curiosity about the brand; a conversation starter. (Traditional “mass” media are statistically proven to drive search and traffic to owned media websites.)
As 50% or more of purchase decisions are made in-store, shopper marketing becomes more important and retailers and store brands are getting more powerful; for example, a year ago, would anyone have thought Costco would delist Coca-Cola?
5. The brand dilemma: globalization and hyper-localization
Marketers need the scale that global branding gives them. It gives them the ability to deploy resources to high growth markets such as those in Asia and to simplify their brand variants. At the same time, a marketplace is really a collection of small markets that vary in tastes and preferences as cultures vary from country to country, and across ethnicities within a country. Retailers are creating localized formats to best meet the cultural, regional, and economics needs of their trading areas and brands must adapt as well. Hence, marketing must build brands globally but activate locally, making sure that packaging, product variants, shopper and mobile marketing all strengthen the local relevance for consumers.
6. The changing meaning of ‘value’ in uncertain times
The recession has had an impact on how people shop and how they trade-off premium national brands versus cheaper store brands. It is unlikely that as the economy rebounds shoppers will completely go back to prior purchasing preferences. In many cases, shoppers have learned where store brands are “fit for purpose” (possibly superior; Kroger’s pies have gotten great press, for example.) National brand marketers need to rethink the value-add they can provide over and above store brands.
7. Geo-triggering of information
In the next few years, we are likely to see a rise in augmented reality and geosensitive messaging delivered to mobile devices based on the “cloud” knowing exactly where you are. Already, some mobile shopping applications even know exactly what aisle you’re in! The same mobile device can also be used, at the owner’s request, to “pull” information. Today, you can take a picture of a UPC code and Shopsavvy will comparison shop for you right at point of purchase. With a smart phone you can search or connect with a friend while deciding what to buy in a store. You can find out what bars serve Stella Artois as you walk down the street and how that place is rated by others.
Smart marketers will integrate mobile and shoppers marketing into their media strategies as information and opinion then become instantly accessible right at point of purchase and impact the buying choices people make.
Brand Building in a two-way world
Consumers are no longer just members of passive audiences they are now active participants. They can pull information via search, going to owned media sites, become brand ambassadors by exchanging ideas with friends in social networks and can even help you create new products. However, they can also become activist in a heartbeat if a marketer does not provide the access, transparency, authenticity, and customer care people expect.
In the new marketing world, brands can (and should) compete in a mental marketplace to connect with people in four ways; functional needs, social attraction, self-expressive value, and offering entertaining and informative content that stimulates curiosity. Thinking this way reveals new ways of making your brand relevant and top of mind and if you succeed at creating that connection, you will be shopped for first even if, rationally speaking, you are only one of a number of similar, acceptable brands. Of course, being shopped for is not the same thing as being bought, which is why locally relevant activation is so important to seal the deal.
The “mental marketplace” changes the rules of competition; your brand must vie for attention against functionally unrelated brands including celebrities and games like Farmville. For example, Whole Foods vies in the mental marketplace of “wellness” with Dannon, Kashi, Subway even WebMD. Whole Foods “competes” wonderfully via brand community across social media (e.g. 800,000+ Twitter followers), has an active blog and iPhone app about a wellness lifestyle from organic/fresh foods.
Brand building in a two way world will separate marketers into two groups; those who feel a sense of gain from conversation with consumers and those who feel a sense of loss because they are no longer in control. The first group is the future of marketing.