Can data improve branding?

By Michael FosterJanuary 27, 2015

Broadly speaking, advertising has two goals. The first and most obvious is to increase sales. You promote a product by telling everyone how it will solve a problem, improve lives, or generally do something good in the world. This is the part of advertising that everyone instinctually gets, and it also happens to be the vast majority of digital advertising and the core of the lead generation market.

The second goal is to establish and affirm a brand. This is a much more abstract concept, and a lot of people simply do not understand what this is or, more crucially, its value. But the value of a brand is very easy to quantify and demonstrate. Do you drink Coke or generic cola? (Do they even sell generic cola anymore?) If you drink Coke, why? Most people will say they drink it because it tastes better — but do they really know that? Have they tried the other brand, or done a taste test?

The greatest example of the power of a brand is the saga of New Coke, which was considered a better tasting version but was immediately rejected by a very loud minority of the American public. Now, no one messes with Coca-Cola, and the brand can still command a hefty premium over Pepsi or the no-name generic brands that have come and gone over the years.

The story of New Coke tells us that brands have their own identity, and people begin to value that identity in their own unique way. The aggregate valuation of the brand across the brand’s target market then becomes the premium value of the brand, and that has real monetary value (in Coca-Cola’s case, untold billions of dollars is the brand’s monetary value).

Savvy advertisers know and understand this, and they chuckle when they hear people say they aren’t influenced by brands just before they put on their Beats headphones and their Hugo Boss sunglasses.

Each brand tells a story, and each brand chooses the story that they want to tell. Advertisements create and communicate that story, which people then see, read and hear on television, in magazines and on the radio. These days, the digital revolution has created more opportunities for advertisers to create a complex and multifaceted story that brings consumers in deeper and deeper.

You can run a television ad encouraging people to go to the brand’s YouTube channel, which can then continue the story for as long as the brand wants, far beyond the 30-second limit of TV. And they know those consumers are engaged. Then they can encourage the consumers to visit the brand’s website or take any other call to action. The story continues.

Some brands know the power of this kind of cross-channel campaign, but they’re still the vast minority. Even very tech-savvy brands do little to interconnect their online and offline efforts. To take one example, I’ve been seeing a lot of Fitbit ads with a typically annoying and upbeat repetitive jingle that forces me to see and perceive the product’s brand as a happy, healthy, diverse tool loved by many. But this sophisticated high-tech firm doesn’t ask me to go to their website or YouTube or really do anything online after I’ve seen the ad. Why not?

Part of the problem is getting the online and offline to work together and using them to tell a consistent story. That is difficult, because marketers still do not know what consumer behavior is typical in the new and complex media landscape. How can you make a complex branding campaign work if you don’t know who is going to see what and how they’ll feel about it?

This question is the starting point of a session at LeadsCon in Las Vegas. Titled “Unlocking Customer Insights: Better Data for Making Better Brand Decisions,” speakers from three brands will discuss how data can be used to improve branding efforts.

By exploring the challenges and successes brands have had incorporating data into their storytelling strategies, the session will consider how smaller companies can develop their own storytelling tool with data and how that data will help optimize campaign performance and reach.

Click here to register for LeadsCon Las Vegas 2015.

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