“I do question whether the marketer of today will really be here in the future or whether they’ll actually have a very different profile,” says technology brand Ricoh’s marketing chief Javier Diez-Aguirre.
Future marketers may need to be far more digitally savvy than current ones, warns Diez-Aguirre. The desire – or panic – not to be left out has meant many marketers have invested a significant amount of money in developing an online presence, but their organisations don’t really know how to use it.
By putting so much emphasis on having a presence in the digital space, businesses have forgotten about building their brand, according to a study by research agency TNS.
The Impact of Digital on Growth Strategies report, based on interviews with several high-profile chief marketing officers (CMOs) and on the Digital Life Study, which surveyed more than 72,000 people in 60 countries, has revealed that businesses will need to go back to basics to discover how their brand can legitimately have a place in the online space.
Smart chief marketers will need to focus on one strong brand idea instead of thinking about digital in a tactical way. By thinking about the big idea first, businesses can make sure they are relevant in the digital space, and connect with their audience in an authentic way, argues Simon Falconer, author of the report and global digital innovation director at TNS.
“For so long, digital has been about getting in the mobile specialist, consulting the social specialist or getting their heads around ad networks for display advertising,” he says. “In all this, the premise of what the brand is all about has been forgotten. For many, the central brand idea has never been taken as a guide, it has always been about the technology and functionality.
“Marketers shouldn’t be asking: ‘What’s our Facebook strategy?’ or ‘What’s our Twitter strategy?’ They should be asking: ‘What are we doing with our brand in the digital space?’ It’s time for marketers to take a longer-term view of digital.”
By concentrating on the one big idea, CMOs will be better equipped to deal with the speed of digital. Information can be passed around the globe in a matter of seconds, and if your brand isn’t clearly defined, it can easily become lost among the glut of content available to consumers.
Simon Sproule, corporate vice-president of global marketing communications at Nissan, explains as part of the research: “It’s been our experience so far that, because of the global nature and speed in which information travels, you have to define your brand clearly upfront. You have to really know who you are. And then you have to drive those values consistently.”
According to the TNS study, people in more developed countries are far less open to seeing brands in their digital space. More than half of those surveyed (57%) in developed markets do not want to engage with brands via social media, rising to 61% in the UK. If the majority of people don’t think brands belong in the digital space, then CMOs have a particularly difficult challenge to convince consumers that they belong in that space.
If, as the study suggests, more than half of people do not want to engage with brands via the likes of Facebook and Twitter, then potentially half of all social media marketing efforts are currently a waste of time and money.
To ensure digital marketing is fruitful, CMOs must work harder to engage with their audience than they may have done with traditional efforts, according to Falconer. “It’s not just about simply pushing out this message. It is about asking: What can we do to build the brand by offering something useful?”
Sam Blunt, brand experience and digital controller at Kellogg Company, and director of the Institute of Promotional Marketing, agrees that questioning a brand’s usefulness is vital before leaping into digital marketing.
The My Special K digital platform was launched last year with the aim of being a useful tool for women concerned about their weight. Offline, the brand has built a story around the breakfast cereal being part of a healthy diet. A woman dressed in red is depicted in television advertising confident about her weight.
But online, the brand is more practical and does not just focus on the story of the woman in red. Instead, it’s about helping real women “gain body confidence”, according to Blunt. “The digital platform My Special K allows women to tailor the tools on offer that are most relevant to their shape management goals,” he says (see case study, below).
It’s not just about simply pushing out this message. It is about asking: What can we do to build the brand by offering something useful?
Marketers at Special K have spent years building a brand idea that is central to marketing the breakfast cereal. And this thinking has been applied in the digital world, so the team is clear on how the online work is an evolution of what happens offline.
By contrast, Sean Farrell, founder of start-up tea company Chateau Rouge, is at the beginning of the journey, both in terms of developing the brand’s personality and understanding how that fits into the digital space.
“I want to create an identity using the likes of Facebook and Twitter,” he says. “I want them to be able to express that Chateau Rouge is an edgy, luxury brand.”
The challenge Farrell faces is trying to reach a wider audience than just tea afficionados. Part of Farrell’s digital strategy will be thinking about what else his target consumer has in their lives and how he can help to facilitate those interests, because he admits taking to Twitter and Facebook simply to talk about quality tea is never going to draw in the crowds.
But it’s not just about building the tea brand in the digital space, Farrell is looking to develop his own personal brand online to drive interest in Chateau Rouge. “Part of being a new brand is deciding whether to create a persona behind it, like Richard Branson has for Virgin, for example,” he says.
Word of mouth is such a large part of creating brand desire that becoming a trusted source of information could help drive growth. “If consumers could buy into a person behind the brand, then they could trust the recommendation of that company,” says Farrell.
With businesses turning to digital to build their brands, the way CMOs will need to work with their chief technology officers (CTOs) will change, according to the TNS research. TNS’s Falconer points out that many marketers will have to collaborate with CTOs as their expertise is required to get the most out of digital.
Ricoh’s research with The Economist echoes these sentiments. Diez-Aguirre says the changing role of digital means that CMOs and CTOs will have to work more closely together to exploit all the opportunities that this presents.
“Digital data is being co-owned by marketers and by the IT community,” he says. “In the future the CMO will have to collaborate more closely with the CTO to get the best results for their business.”
Case study: Special K
How do you make a cereal brand engaging in the online space? You have to think about the central brand idea, yet you can’t apply this in the digital space in the same way it is applied in traditional advertising, says Sam Blunt, brand experience and digital controller at Kellogg Company.
He believes that Special K has succeeded in applying the core brand idea – which focuses on lifestyle and weight management – to the online environment.
“Consumers have a huge amount of digital content to choose from and unlike traditional forms of broadcast media, they do have a choice,” he says. “We have to compete much harder for consumer’s attention online than we do offline, so this relevance is absolutely essential.
“To try and achieve success in the digital space is to offer something of value. And that value has to be something that no other brand can offer. So when we’re able to intersect our activity with consumer needs, we then find we have a powerful proposition with consumers.”
My Special K launched last year and is effectively a competitor to Weight Watchers online. It offers women a range of ways to manage their weight, such as a recipe planner and tips on keeping in shape. There is also an online forum where everyone from brides-to-be and holiday slimmers can share the ups and downs of being on a weight loss programme.
“The platform allows women to tailor the tools on offer that are most relevant to them for their shape management goals,” says Blunt.
But it is the level of personalisation that digital can provide which he believes will make this channel more engaging than traditional marketing.
“This idea of personalisation is integral to the Special K digital offering,” he says. “The content consumers are served is determined by their goals, what their household is like – are they cooking and eating with children, for example? So we try to get as much data as we can to personalise the offering.
“Location is becoming an increasingly important part of the data that we gather about our customers. Digital goes wherever the consumer goes and so the Special K plan is set up so that people can follow their plans while they are away from home.”
By using augmented reality apps, the brand can show women places on the high street where they can buy meals to fit into their plan.
He adds: “We hope they do feel more connected to the brand because we all know that digital creates a two-way conversation.”
How CMOs can build brands online
Digital engagement and the brand idea
Most CMOs will already be obsessed with the word ‘engagement’. The marketing watchword is at the top of the agenda, especially since the advent of social media with its potential for two-way conversations. But CMOs need to be focusing on the idea first, not the digital touchpoint, according to The Impact of Growth Strategies report by TNS. If marketers can lead with the “central brand idea” it says, consumers will more likely understand you, accept your digital presence and want to engage with you.
Analytics to make data work harder
There is so much digital data available to marketers and knowing how to crunch it into something meaningful is a skill CMOs will need to focus on, especially if like Procter & Gamble, marketing spend is being largely diverted here. It also means CMOs and chief technology officers are going to have to work more closely together in order to get the most out of their data.
Speed of execution and organisational change
The fast pace of digital is something that CMOs now have to factor into their marketing strategy. Simon Falconer, global digital innovation director at TNS says the agency research uncovered that marketers now believe that “digital is the new normal”, meaning that consumers expect brands to respond minutes after they have initiated or responded to conversation online. Our customer service trends feature (page 22) bears this out. It covers a study by Maritz Research which highlights that brands are behind the curve when it comes to responding to comments made online. Eighty-five per cent of people in the survey say they have never been contacted by a brand after posting positive or negative comments.
Sponsored viewpoint: Fiona Noble
UK vice-chairman, Weber Shandwick
Fact. If the US TV networks had been broadcasting 24/7 for the past 60 years, they still would not have exceeded the video content uploaded to YouTube in the past two months.
It’s clear that people want to share and consume content, so there’s a fantastic opportunity for brands to have a conversation with their consumers if marketers can get the idea right and push it out via the right platforms.
But in the rush for brands to get into the digital space, some are in danger of forgetting the founding principles of good marketing – being authentic, giving consumers a reason to believe in you and enhancing their experience.
At first glance, the research carried out by TNS could be interpreted as saying consumers are resistant to brands engaging with them online, but what they are really saying is they don’t want to be sold to. “If you give me something that’s entertaining, which I can share, that gives me some social capital and listens to me, then I’m prepared to engage, but it’s on my terms, not yours.” These are the new rules of the social landscape and brands ignore them at their peril.
By definition, the digital and social world is about conversation and, therefore, brands need to understand that they need to give up a little bit of control and put their offerings in the hands of consumers. Equally fundamental is that brands wishing to engage in the social space have got to have a legitimate reason to be there.
There is debate about whether the social space is more relevant for some brands than others. If it’s where your consumers are and where conversations are happening about you, it’s where you as a brand need to be. This is as relevant for a luxury brand as it is for a FMCG. Look at Burberry, a luxury fashion label with a strong sense of personality and purpose. It has really embraced social, which has undoubtedly strengthened its brand, without detracting from its luxury and aspirational qualities.
We have a belief that it’s not just about the “big idea” anymore. It’s about “ideas that grow”. A brand that plants the right seed in the social space will see the power of its idea multiply as consumers share it, shape it, make it their own and then pass it on. Marketing nirvana.