We are hunkered down in Boston for another snowstorm. This one comes swift on the heels of last week's doozy of a blizzard. In the media-frenzied ramp-up, conversations inevitably turned to comparisons with the infamous snowstorm of 1978 that brought hardy Boston to its knees. But as newly minted Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker noted, today’s storms can’t be compared with those of the past, because today we have access to so much information via digital media. In 2015, snowstorms are experienced digitally as much as they are physically. Up-to-the-minute updates and viewer photos are posted by 7News Boston on Twitter. Friends and family share their own storm experiences on Facebook. Cities, schools, and offices push out information on closings through text messages. (Anyone remember now-obsolete phone trees?)
Digital enhances our everyday experiences. And digital experiences are the tantalizing future of digital brand building. But too many marketers are myopically focused on wringing out digital efficiencies from push channels such as email and search. Case in point: Mark Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble (P&G), will speak at this year’s ANA Media Leadership conference on “creating a more trustworthy digital advertising supply chain.” Undoubtedly this is a necessary and worthy goal, but disappointingly prosaic from such a notable brand leader.
For the 67% of US online adults who use smartphones, everyday life is made up of a web of mobile moments. The gaps in our days are absorbed with checking email while waiting for a grande skinny soy latte, frenetically refreshing a delayed flight status as another winter storm blasts through, or catching up with real, virtual, and long-lost friends on our social network of choice. Wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon power many of those mobile moments. Their business and their brands should be booming on the back of consumers’ need for constant connectivity, but our research shows that these brands are falling short.
In our TRUE brand compass survey of US wireless carriers, consumers found brand leadership wanting. Verizon Wireless achieved the highest ranking of the 10 brands surveyed, propelled by second quintile scores for being trusted and essential. But none of the brands achieved the top-ranking tiers of trailblazer or leader. The prescription? Wireless brands must seek to win hearts, not just contracts.
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.
JetBlue built its brand on a new standard of in-flight customer experience when it launched in 1999. Guided by its brand North Star to “bring humanity back to air travel,” the fledgling airline offered beleaguered economy passengers better seats, better entertainment, better snacks, and an all-around better customer experience. JetBlue had the prescience to understand that customer experience is inextricably linked to brand experience.
Our TRUE brand compass research shows that JetBlue has established itself as a major airline brand with consumers but has not yet risen above the competitive pack. JetBlue ranks as a TRUE brand follower, alongside air transportation stalwarts like American Airlines and United Airlines. But will it rise to leader status? On the back of a couple of headline-grabbing passenger incidents, a recent USA Today article raised questions about whether this pioneer of a better airline customer experience has “Lost Its Heart.” For me, the question is not so much whether JetBlue has lost its heart but whether the brand has failed to keep pace with consumers’ rising expectations of brands. Does JetBlue still have the prescience to see what will build the airline brand of the future?
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.
Content marketing has rapidly gained marketers’ attention as a new way to build relationships with customers — customers bombarded with marketing messages and overloaded by digital distractions. But as this new marketing discipline evolves, new challenges emerge:
From scaling content . . . to providing quality content in context. A year ago, many marketers’ content challenge was to create content at scale. Today the quest for scalable content is tempered by the need for quality content, as marketers realize that getting the right content to the right consumer in context is a more impactful and sustainable approach.
From cajoling business units to produce content . . . to effectively managing that content stream. Complex organizations must now effectively manage content across multiple divisions and geographies.
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.
In days gone by, when a British monarch died, the town crier would roam the streets of London calling out, “The king is dead. Long live the King.” This seemingly contradictory statement announces the beginning of a new regal era. The old king is dead; long live the new king. In 2013, the old era of siloed digital marketing ended and a new era of what Forrester calls post-digital marketing began. There was no official town crier and so perhaps you missed these headlines:
January 2013: Forrester’s David Cooperstein observed, “We are at another inflection point, as we move from digital marketing as a renegade effort to post-digital marketing . . . We are entering a world where digital innovation is merging with traditional marketing fundamentals to create new approaches, new brand leaders, and new models for success.”
September 2013: Procter & Gamble’s Global Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard echoed this sentiment when he declared the end of the digital marketing era, saying that all digital marketing is “just brand building.”
As the opening of the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) dawned in Las Vegas, consumer technology firms pitched their innovation wares. Forrester’s latest TRUE brand compass research shows that innovation is a key to successfully building a sustainable consumer technology brand, but that innovation alone is not sufficient.
In August 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,551 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century consumer technology 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.
In a surprise upset, Microsoft trumped Apple and Samsung in the TRUE brand rankings. In fact, Microsoft was the only brand in the survey to achieve the coveted trailblazer status— indicating that the Microsoft brand is “at the forefront of brand building with a unique and distinct brand identity that sets it apart from other brands.” Both Apple and Samsung achieved leader status.