Media’s New Role in the Empowered Consumer Journey

October 15, 2019

This article originally appeared in Ad Age

The once common myth that brand and performance marketing must exist separately has been officially debunked.

Well, almost.

Today’s marketers are beginning to see brand and performance through a new, more enlightened lens—meaning we’ve bid farewell to the days of thinking that performance media is all about driving response, but can’t also elevate a brand. Conversely, we no longer believe brand advertising is only designed for establishing brand identity and differentiation in the marketplace, not to influence purchase decisions. 

Thanks to technology, data and new media and platforms, the worlds of brand and performance are converging. And this is a very good thing. Not only are these new tools enabling greater integration, and therefore greater consistency in the ways that brands communicate with consumers, but they are also effectively growing businesses. 

The challenge? While these new opportunities exist, it’s made our jobs as marketers much more complex. Consumers expect brands to be more intelligent, provide meaningful personalized experiences and have strong, authentic values that they can identify with. At the same time, don’t forget the importance of great product, great storytelling, great content and creative—the list of expectations seems endless.  

Nonetheless, we have the tools and a clear view of the benefits to an integrated approach. But the way we approach media still has room to grow and evolve.

To demonstrate this, let’s debunk two more myths. 

Myth 1: Brand awareness is dead

Brand awareness isn’t dead. In fact, brand is everything today. But traditional brand awareness media, and its inherent value in the relationship between brand and consumer, has drastically evolved in form and relevance.

As consumers, the days of passively viewing advertising are long gone. Instead, technology has enabled us to choose how we interact with media—and many more forms of media at that. We are in complete control of our experiences with brands through our mobile devices, our smart TVs and through more social and community-driven platforms that are designed for active engagement.

No longer are we in a time and place where brands can buy a TV spot and expect the same levels of brand recall and brand affinity. Even with strong GRP and viewability metrics, we can’t guarantee that consumers are both exposed to and absorbing a brand message.

What we are seeing now is the death of old awareness media and the surge of consideration media.

Myth 2: Brand loyalty is dead

Consider this statistic about the coveted millennial audience from industry analyst Field Agent: 56 percent of millennials, compared with 59 percent of non-millennials, prefer staying true to one brand over time as opposed to shopping around.

Brand loyalty, even among what’s widely considered to be the least loyal of generations, is still alive and well. In fact, millennial behaviors point to some of the strongest loyalty that brands will know, but the challenge is getting these consumers to consider your brand. This is critically important for the viability of a business today. 

The reality is that people don’t want to be told what to buy. Arguably, they don’t even want brands to tell them all the reasons they’re designed perfectly for them. Relevance is important to consumers—it’s what gets brands noticed, what drives trial and acquisition and, eventually, loyalty. Today’s empowered consumers want to make their own informed decisions about brands, and it’s not only relevance that’s important to them.

Brands and, by extension, brand experiences, need to be immersive in a way that makes them fit into consumers’ lives. Perhaps most important, they need to demonstrate, with clear intention, that they are serving a purpose and creating value. That’s what drives people to engage.

And now a truth: Media (and marketers) must continue to evolve

If it’s a brand’s job to add real, authentic value to consumers’ lives, then what’s the role of media in this new reality? With the constant evolution of data and technology, how can media drive meaningful consideration that leads to longer-term loyalty?

Says Hims founder Andrew Dudum, “It’s so easy to build a brand—get it live and throw up Instagram ads—that I think building a serious depth of trust with your consumers involves so much more than that. When they need something, we’re here to help them.”

As Dudum suggests, brands need to both instill trust and fill a need. Therefore, media experiences must reach far beyond a transactional relationship and instead serve as a bridge between the brand and how consumers authentically experience that brand in their everyday lives. Media not only tells a story in the right place at the right time, it also has utility.

Digital native brand Glossier has built its business on a foundation of direct relationships with customers. But that’s not its sole source of success. Its success comes from the fact that the brand’s marketing experiences aren’t about product or making a sale, they’re about the Glossier community.

Glossier, named one of America’s Hottest Brands of 2019 by Ad Age, is elegantly blending brand and performance tactics to change the ways that real people engage with beauty online. Every day they invite customers to become a part of the Glossier story and, in turn, customers are immersing themselves in the Glossier lifestyle and growing more loyal.

Great media experiences like these can change the way people engage with brands. As marketers, we need to continue to raise the bar.

Synergy is necessary

So how can media achieve this critical synergy? 

We now know that effective performance marketing can also be effective brand building because both serve to reinforce a brand in the consumer’s life in a more valuable, memorable way. This type of thinking, powered by new and continually evolving technologies and media, is the key to creating lasting relationships with consumers and growing successful businesses.

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