Earlier this year, The New Yorker published an article entitled "Twilight of the Brands," which posited that due to the abundance of information now available to consumers, brands are irrelevant. For all the die-hard brand marketers out there — myself included — it felt like a blow to the chest. But the analysis is flawed and the conclusion is erroneous because the abundance of information now available to consumers makes brands more — not less — relevant. Brands have always been a shortcut to decision-making, and in a world where consumers are increasingly overwhelmed with information, that role becomes even more important. But what has changed is the art and science of brand building. In the age of the customer, we see that:
Brand communications have shifted from controlled to chaotic. In the pre-digital world, marketers had the luxury of being able to control most of their customers’ interactions with their brands — through ads, packaging, POS, and carefully solicited PR editorial. But in today’s post-digital era, most of consumers’ information about a brand originates from sources outside of the brand’s control, such as user-generated content, ratings and reviews, or social chatter.
Marketers have long relied on brand health trackers to take the consumer pulse of their brand-- to measure brand awareness, consideration and purchase intent. But with so many customers’ opinions now readily available through social chatter, are these entrenched and expensive budget line items still necessary?
Not so fast. Today’s brand measurement world is more complex than ever. Consumer behavior is changing rapidly and marketers have gone from data famine to feast. Today’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) needs trusted advisors to help her turn mountains of data into actionable insights. Forrester has identified three core disciplines of brand measurement to help marketing leaders navigate this complex landscape. These three disciplines are:
Brand equity reveals what people feel about your brand. Evaluating brand equity helps CMOs understand how consumers perceive a brand, without consideration for brand usage. What does the brand stand for in the eyes of a consumer?
Brand health quantifies the strength of a brand in the marketplace. Measuring brand health helps CMOs understand the relationship between how consumers perceive a brand and how that manifests itself in the marketplace relative to competition.
Brand value quantifies a brand as a financial asset. Quantifying brand value helps chief financial officers (CFOs) understand the financial value of a brand to a corporation. It is most commonly used for financial reporting to define goodwill, the value of an acquisition, or the appropriate price for licensing.
When I first moved to the US from the UK, grocery shopping at the West Lafayette, Indiana supermarket took forever. What took so long? No, it was not the slow pace of a small Indiana town. It was that I didn’t know any of the brands. So every selection from pasta sauce to laundry detergent to shampoo was a new decision. I had no relationship with the brands. No frame of reference to know which ones to trust. Every time we go to a grocery store or a drug store, we make a multitude of purchase decisions. Our brand relationships are a shortcut in that decision-making process, we select from a shortlist of brands that we trust. This means that household name Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands that have been around for decades often control mindshare and thus market share.
Forrester’s new TRUE brand compass research proves this out. In February 2013, Forrester fielded the first in a series of quarterly Technographics® TRUE brand compass surveys that explore consumers’ attitudes about specific brands and how strongly they resonate with consumers. From this research we developed two new tools to help guide marketers on their brand building journey - to achieve the right balance of being trusted, remarkable, unmistakable and essential (TRUE):
The TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance. Is your brand a trail blazer – winning consumer mindshare, or astray – lost its way and it connection to consumers?
The TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along the four dimensions. Is your brand strong on being trusted? Weak on being essential?
There’s a lot of effort exerted by marketing leaders to turn customers into brand advocates. But their customers have a lot of brand choices and a lot of other things on their minds. What these marketers are overlooking is the potential brand advocates in their own backyard. Their employees. Employees are fundamentally connected to, thinking about, and representing your brand every day. They are often your biggest fans.
Indeed, our research shows that one of the biggest shifts of brand building in the 21st century is that — for leading brands — it is now a companywide effort. A unanimous 100% of marketing leaders surveyed by Forrester agreed that brand building requires all employees to be brand ambassadors. But the companies they lead are not yet living up to this aspiration. While many marketers’ eyes light up at the prospect of tapping in to their employees' Twitter networks, just focusing on social is missing the point. Yes, social is a valuable tool to create conversation. But true employee brand advocacy requires chief marketing officers (CMOs) to go deeper. They need to make delivering a superior brand experience part of the enterprise culture. Brand advocacy can’t be another task on someone’s to-do list. Make brand building part of how employees do their job and guide them by the light of a clear brand North Star so that your powerful new army marches to the same drumbeat. Forrester’s three-step framework guides the way:
Excite with an inspiring brand experience. A PowerPoint presentation at the company meeting just won’t cut it. Bring the brand to life for your employees. Starbucks invested a staggering $35 million to create an interactive brand lab to bring the brand experience to life for its frontline employees.
I’m currently quite taken with the new Fox TV series The Americans, which features a chameleon-like Matthew Rhys and a kick-ass Keri Russell as deep-undercover KGB spies. They live an apparently normal family life in 1980s suburban cold war America, while unbeknownst to their two American-born children, they conduct brutal covert operations for mother Russia. A recent episode called “Trust Me” exposed the perilous shifting sands of trust in their relationships. It is a world where no one is quite what they seem to be, and every character is constantly reevaluating whom they can trust. It is exhausting. Because without trust, every decision or action is a risk.
This holds true not just for human relationships but also for brand relationships. In both, trust is the cornerstone. Brand trust makes purchasing decisions easier, quicker, and less risky. I choose Amazon because I trust that it will deliver the product I want when I want it. I trust that my Neutrogena sunblock will protect my skin. I trust that my Starbucks coffee will taste good. I recently attended an event hosted by the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) on the topic of “Building Trust In A Digital Age.” MSI seeks to bridge the gap between marketing academic and business worlds, by bringing together marketing thought leaders from both realms to research and discuss big meaty, marketing topics. For the Boston Spring session, attendees debated the nature of brand trust and how it is driven and measured. A couple of highlights:
Like many marketing leaders out there, you are probably still coming to grips with understanding and working with Millennials — the 20-somethings being courted by media and marketing alike. But now there’s a whole new generation to understand: Generation Z. Who are they? Why should you care about them? And how can you build your brand with them? Here’s what we know.
Who is Gen Z?
Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world. While there’s no one commonly accepted demographic definition, they are generally considered to be born in the mid-1990s through 2010. They are true digital natives who have grown up in the age of technology. The only world they know is a digital one — where they can connect anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. As a result, they are highly promiscuous when it comes to media consumption; they will be the first generation to consume more media online than offline. And Forrester’s Technographics® research shows that today 84% of Gen Zers multitask with an Internet-connected device while watching TV — using an average of 1.5 other Internet-connected devices.
Why should marketers care?
The leading edge of this generation is now aged 18 to 23, entering college and the workforce. They are financing more of their own brand and purchasing decisions and experimenting with new products and brands. This makes them a key target for many marketers seeking to forge life-long brand allegiance.
How can you build your brand with them?
Gen Zers are open to relationships with brands, so long as those brands are authentic and live up to their high expectations. To win the hearts and minds of Gen Zers, marketing leaders must: