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.
Is this the long-awaited year of mobile? Last week, Facebook announced that its quarterly profits had more than doubled, driven in large part by mobile; 62% of Facebook’s ad revenue now comes from advertising on mobile devices. Forrester forecasts that mobile will be the fastest-growing digital marketing category in 2014, increasing 47% in 2013 over the prior year. And Forrester believes that we are witnessing a mobile mind shift — “the expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need.”
But mobile’s marketing moment has not yet arrived. While consumers continue the rapid shift to mobile, marketers have not yet realized mobile’s brand building potential — because for too many marketers, mobile remains a tactical underfunded offshoot disconnected from a CMO's brand building efforts. This is a missed opportunity.
Marketing needs a mobile mind shift. To harness the power of mobile, marketers must start with the experience they want customers to have with their brand, not the technology. Then determine what role mobile can play in delivering, improving, or even reinventing that experience — by creating, anticipating, or addressing a customer's mobile moment. Because the new battleground for customers is the mobile moment — the instant in which a customer has a want or need — Forrester has identified three types of mobile marketing moments.
My recent report, “Driving Toward Communications Sourcing Excellence,” looks behind the scenes to find out why Formula One (F1) sourcing professionals enjoy such a great customer experience from their network providers. It’s a two-way street: Providers ensure that the F1 team’s network is reliable, always available, and delivers peak performance when needed, and F1 sourcing pros provide the guidance, insight, and support to make sure providers know what teams need. This is as much a concern for CIOs as it is for sourcing pros in their quest to win, serve, and retain customers.
Matt Cadieux, the CIO of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, said, “AT&T has a dedicated F1 account team that I meet for regular account reviews to discuss our requirements and plans. In the rare event of a problem, we also have excellent relationships with AT&T’s top executives. AT&T has consistently delivered projects when required; for example, in 2014 it provisioned new access networks in England and France and at racetracks around the world. These circuits have been fully operational — we show up and they just work.”
What It Means
My colleague Tracy Stokes believes that a consistent customer experience builds a trusted brand, and I couldn’t agree more. It also leads to:
The chief marketing officer’s (CMO’s) role is shifting from a two-dimensional world of outbound marketing communications vehicles to a multidimensional world that encompasses every interaction a customer has with a brand. These CMOs must not only craft the perfect marketing communications message but also ensure that their customers’ experience is consistent with the brand promise.
Why does this matter? Because Forrester’s TRUE brand compass research shows that having a consistent experience across all brand touchpoints is a key driver of brand trust. For example, consumers tell us that both Microsoft and Amazon.com deliver a consistent experience every time they interact with those brands. This helps both brands secure high levels of brand trust, which in turn drives strong brand resonance.
To build a trusted brand, marketing leaders must ensure that brand messages sync with achievable expectations to deliver the brand promise. Many airlines now routinely offer a swift response to customers’ on-the-go travel needs via Twitter; this real-time travel support serves to enhance the brand experience. Delta sees the opportunity; the airline is investing more than $3 billion to enhance the customer experience in the air, on the ground and online.
Despite a recent lackluster earnings call, there’s a bright spot on the horizon for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Forrester’s latest TRUE brand compass research shows a reservoir of consumer goodwill for the struggling brand.
In August 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,551 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st-century media brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework, designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components: 1) An overall TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand, and 2) the TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along each of the four TRUE dimensions.
The results showed a tale of two digital media eras and the importance of brand building in the digital world:
1990s digital media brands reap the rewards of brand building investment. Established digital media brands from the late 1990s recognized the importance of building their brands with consumers. Yahoo was a TV ad mainstay for many years — “Do you Yahoo!” anyone? This early investment continues to pay off as, despite corporate turmoil, the Yahoo brand retains a reservoir of brand resonance with consumers. And the mighty Google, which was the only media brand surveyed to achieve trailblazer status, continues to invest in TV brand building ads.
Earlier this summer, I attended an Experian marketing conference in Las Vegas, where I was rather surprised to see WWE champ John Cena on the agenda. Intrigued, I stuck around for his late afternoon session to see what he had to say. I’m glad I did. It turns out John Cena is a great brand builder. This Massachusetts-born native is a $100 million brand with 5.3 million Twitter followers and more than 15 million Facebook fans — just behind Kobe Bryant at 16 million. What’s his secret? Here are three brand-building lessons from John Cena:
Be customer-obsessed. Forrester believes that in the 21st century, the single source of competitive advantage is to be customer-obsessed. Cena gets this. He understands that his brand is only as strong as his relationship with his fans. And he takes that responsibility seriously. Cena claims you won’t find pictures of him at a Miami club, surrounded by a bevy of scantily clad women. His tweets depict his clean-cut image and are PG-appropriate.
Guide your journey with a clear North Star. Leading brands guide their brand, messaging, products, and organization by the light of their North Star — that core brand essence. Oreo’s North Star is to “celebrate childhood.” Cena guides his career with the mantra “hustle, loyalty, and respect.”
Build a trusted brand. Cena is trusted by his fans because he is authentic and passionate about who he is and what he does. As he commented, “you have to be authentic, even when you are falling down in a fake fight in a fake universe.”
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.
We live in a world filled with technology-empowered consumers who have access to more information on brands than ever before. Armed with this information, they are telling brands where, when, and how they want to engage. This new world has sent marketers and the brand’s they support into a tailspin — they are losing control of their brand message and are losing trust with consumers. My colleagues Tracy Stokes, Chelsea Hammond, and I have developed a framework that helps marketers stop their free fall and chart a new course for their brand to win mindshare and market share in this new world. We call it the TRUE Brand Compass Framework.
In this framework, we take the stance that for marketers to succeed in building a 21st century brand, they need to focus on a new set of metrics that capture brand resonance. Professor Kevin Lane Keller perfectly states what brand resonance is: “where customers feel a connection or sense of community with the brand and they would miss it if it went away.” In our research and advanced analytics on brand resonance, we identified four key dimensions that each significantly influence brand resonance. These four dimensions are TRUE: trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and 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: