Out of a generally uninspiring batch of ads this year, one trend stood out: brands using the largest ad platform in the US to align their brand with social and political values that generally are thought to have no place in the bottom-line world of driving quarterly business results. Social media listening firm Talkwalker notes that 5 of the top 10 most talked about ads have a social or political theme and generated strong positive sentiment: Budweiser, Audi, Coca-Cola, 84 Lumber, and AirBnB.
Not all ads attempting to align a brand with societal values were successful: Audi’s attempt to take a stand on gender pay equity lacked a credible connection to this testosterone-fueled luxury car. And, of course, taking a stand risks alienating consumers who disagree. Since Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” ad was originally conceived long before the election, I’m not convinced they were trying to make a statement about immigration policy. But it is certainly being seen in that tone and has brought out a fair share of trolls commenting on YouTube.
These brands are acknowledging that the idea that “the business of business is business” is changing. Along with my colleagues Henry Peyret, Brigitte Majewski, Alex Cullen and Drew Green, I have been exploring the changing nature of how consumers incorporate these broader values into their brand decisions. Stay tuned for the report but our research tells us 3 things a brand must do to walk this delicate line in today’s polarized environment.
Carefully consider where your brand should be on what Carol Cone calls “The Purpose Spectrum”
Be authentic and back up the words with tangible commitments
I always love this time of year. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we’re at a turning point: With the close of the World Series and the start of daylight savings, we face the reality that evenings are colder, nights come faster, and the holidays are imminent. With summer escapes behind us and holiday shopping ahead of us, recent media stories made me think about one phenomenon that does not change with the seasons: the relentless efficacy of advertising.
For example, REI’s latest ad, which urges consumers to forego Black Friday, may look like commercial suicide at first glance, but don’t underestimate the effects of an unexpected message. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while ads may not directly spark a purchase, they immediately enhance awareness and can spark consumer behavior that subsequently drives consumption:
And this data only quantifies the advertising effects of which consumers are aware; more often than not, advertising has a deeper, subconscious impact on consumer behavior and attitudes.
The 2015 Super Bowl had 114 million viewers – making it the most watched television event in US history according to Nielson data. Forrester used its Technographics 360 approach, which combines multiple data sources, to understand how consumers used their smartphones on the big day.
Forrester tracked the smartphone behavior of 879 US online smartphone owners (18+) during the dates surrounding the Super Bowl as well as on the day itself. To better understand these mobile behaviors and add further context, Forrester engaged a group of 157 US participants (18+) in our ConsumerVoices online community. Finally, to capture the nature of public conversation overall, we leveraged social listening to explore topics and sentiment throughout the day across US consumers’ social media posts.
Don’t you hate when a company advertises a product but fails to make it easy to find and buy?
Mad Men’s Don Draper, who, in the 1960’s could have been as likely to work in insurance as advertising (but the story would have been not nearly so interesting), would have a field day with the findings from Forrester’s just published report, “The Next Act For Usage-Based Car Insurance”, the first in a four-report series addressing the UBI landscape in the US, Canada,and Europe and the future of UBI.
Smart devices, smartphones, and smart cars are converging to create what should be a smart insurance choice for safe drivers and their insurers. The report examines American consumer interest and adoption of usage-based car insurance and the obstacles to purchase, many of which point directly to insurance eBusiness failings.
When Forrester last looked at the UBI market in 2008 (then termed “Pay As You Drive” or PAYD), consumers couldn’t get it because of a big distribution problem: It was offered by few insurers in just a few states. A couple of months ago, we decided to see just what had changed over the past five or so years when it came to consumer interest and purchase. What did we learn?
Two ways media’s changing now, and two ways it’s going to change:
The FT Digital event in London last week pulled together some of the cream of the European media world. The big conclusion they were made privy to?
The media world will soon discover exactly how many ways you can skin a cat.
The old-fashioned way for media brands to skin a cat – make the content and license rights to distribute it, or advertise next to it – doesn’t work anymore as a standalone product. As a result, the business model experimentation we’ve seen so far in the media world is turning into business model explosion. Evidence: Half of the speakers and attendees at this media event wouldn’t have been at a media event at all only three or four years ago. Facebook. Shazam. BuzzFeed. And tech VCs, for example.
Two pieces of news exemplified changes taking place right now: One, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus (a virtual reality gaming device) forced discussion toward the value of a platform – the device is only as valuable as the community of developers creating remarkable content for it; tech and media companies alike need to take a platform approach to their assets.
Second, The New York Times’ launching of NYT Now – a premium version of the Times exclusively for smartphones – showed how media companies are bending themselves backward to divorce (call it “conscious uncoupling” if you will) resources from revenue. The mobile app will take a Facebook-like approach to making money by allowing advertisers to publish sponsored content in-feed.
And two discussions painted a picture of media’s future:
Brace for impact. What I'm about to say is going to make a lot of people angry, including some of the people at Google who are going to rightly point out that when they pre-briefed me on today's Google eBooks announcement, we never once discussed ad-supported reading.
Instead, they told me all about their plan to establish a set of tools that will offer eBooks to people looking for book information through Google's search engine. They explained that this will make it possible for the millions of people who conduct book-related searches every day to have easy access to 3 million books -- some out of copyright, some out of print but under copyright, and a full range of in-print titles including bestsellers. They also described how independent booksellers will be able to use the same set of web-based commerce and reading tools to build their own branded eBook stores to finally extend their brick-and-mortar customer relationships into the digital space.
Since then, I've spoken to half a dozen reporters who were also pre-briefed and they have all had a similar set of questions: can Google compete against Amazon (no, but it can compete against Barnes & Noble), is it too late to make a dent in a mature market (no, less than 10% of online adults in the US read eBooks, there's plenty of room to grow), is Google's cloud-based strategy unique (yes and no, it supports all devices except the Kindle, but the Kindle platform actually supports as many devices as Google will).
Coming to you live this morning from the kick off keynote of the Adobe (nee Omniture) Summit in Salt Lake City. And I'm pleased to report that so far the event is as thumping and hued in neon green as in years past.
A nice change from past summits: Instead of discussing developments to Omniture's online marketig technology, today's Omniture keynote by Josh James is themed around "The New Principles Of A Successful CMO." These are Josh's principles for how marketing execs can succeed.
Marketers - pay attention. This is an example that seems great in theory, but the "devil is in the details" of the implementation so to speak. This is among the top inquiries I hear from clients, "what do you think about 2D barcodes or QR codes as a means of connecting with customers?" I took this inquiry from a CPG client just a couple of weeks ago. I laid out the challenges. Their response was, "well, we're doing it anyway." Piloting is good - just go into it with your eyes wide open.
Apple isn't saying. Quattro posted a blog that told their current customers not to worry - normal business operations would continue. So, I am speculating a bit.
The first questions I've fielded are, "Does Apple want to go head to head with Google?" or "Does Apple want to sell advertising?" At a high level, I believe businesses stick close to their core competencies. Apple sells hardware, software and some content. Google sells advertising. Well, mostly. There are about 4 billion cell phones worldwide and about 1 billion PC's. New Internet connects (and page views and advertising growth) will come from mobile. Mobile is high growth. PC's are a bit commoditized. My cell phone costs more than my last netbook or notebook purchase. Go figure.
Our mobile marketing foreast for the US shows revenue growing from $391M in 2009 to $1.3B in 2014 provided there aren't any game changers. Game changers? Anything that would dramatically impact the amount of inventory or the value of it. The Apple iPhone, for example, dramatically altered the number of page views or inventory in mobile. The Android phones are helping as well and gaining momentum. These numbers are US-only - growth in mobile globally has been dramatic as well and will continue to be. In the US alone (see my colleague Charlie Golvin's blog) smartphone adoption grew from 11% at the end of 2008 to 17% at the end of 2009. This is significant because a lot more browsing and application downloads happen on these phones than more basic ones. A cut of this revenue would add some to Apple's bottom line, but very small at least in the next few years.