Growing up in this business there were certain truths. Over time, technology has chiseled away at these truths, revealing a new sculpture of how brands grow. Unfortunately, statuesque research methods remain in practice because I think marketers are too time starved to enumerate the old mental model and then articulate the new model. Affirmation of a new model would lead to replacing venerable methods by newer ones reflecting a more contemporary framework of how brands grow.
Permit me to contrast some older truths with new truths in a digital, social, mobile age
Old: Brand equity is important because it guarantees purchase as people almost always buy their preferred brand. Shopping is the process by which people acquire what they intend to buy.
New: Brand equity is important but only gets you “predisposition”. The shopper process is active and self-directed and brands can come and go into consideration up until purchase.
Implication: Marketers must practice always on marketing, allowing the brand to be findable when consumers choose to seek it out. This is the exact opposite of the traditional media model where brand advertise to consumers when they are available. A total flip! Both channels are important but if you only focus on push marketing, you will underperform along the path to purchase.
Old: Brand perceptions drive preference for one directly competitive brand vs. another.
New: Brand knowledge activates in context. The brand that immediately comes to mind is triggered by the situation and that can bring together brands that otherwise would not be thought of as competitive. For example, as much as I love Diet Coke, it doesn’t even enter my mind in the morning…not until lunch time. If I am eating lunch at a restaurant, I will consider Coke as an alternative to sparkling water and iced tea. At home, my choice set is totally different. This is also where disruption comes from. If they aren’t alert to this, Citibank, Chase, etc. will wonder how they lost the credit card business to Apple, Google, and Paypal.
Implication: brand preferences and top of mind awareness must be measured in the context of usage moments and these must be measured immediately, because consumers’ feelings are in the moment and ephemeral.
Old: When you launch a new brand, spend twice the share of voice as you expect in market share (e.g. expect a 10% market share, spend to achieve 20% share of voice). Front load this plan, and achieve high media reach in the first month.
New: Share of experiences is more important than share of spending and people can experience a brand many ways, across paid, owned, earned, environmental exposure, and usage. In fact, often more than half of brand experiences are NOT coming from paid media at all.
Implication: It is critical to track and manage how people experience your brand as that will drive sales growth. These experiences come from owned and earned media as well as paid media, so always on marketing has become as important as paid advertising that is pulsed in campaigns. Also, the mass media model needs to be challenged. It is likely that a single digital percentage of shoppers account for 80% or more of sales so precision targeting has become as or more important than reach via mass shotgun methods. The corollary to this is that marketers are not only competing based on the strength of their brands, they compete based on their profiling knowledge of users that has digital targeting value. It is a data-driven marketing age.
Old: Advertising is 90% about the creative and 10% about the media strategy
New: Brand communications are data driven, meaning that media strategy has risen in importance and creative is subject to optimization as well.
Implication: The recently departed Yogi Berra, catcher for the NY Yankees and amazing inadvertent philosopher said that “baseball is 90% physical and 50% mental”. YES! that goes for advertising too! In digital, creative is still extremely important but media strategy is driven by algorithms which guarantees replicability of marketing success. While nothing beats the amazing creative, it is like catching lightening in a bottle. Media strategy is driven by your data advantage and if you have success with it once, it will succeed for you every time.
So, I encourage you to evaluate your research practices in light of these new truths:
- Brand equity gets you predisposition but does not control the shopper outcome
- Brand knowledge activates in context
- Brands compete in a mental marketplace beyond category definitions
- Brands are built from experiences which are not controlled by marketers but can be curated, measured, and managed.
Food for thought: Are you measuring shopping processes and HOW people decide? Are you measuring purchase preference in usage and need context? Are you considering a broader competitive set than those than share your functional features? Do you measure the “pie chart” of how people experience your brand beyond paid advertising?