Branding is not dead in the digital world. That is the common sentiment amongst panellists today.
What if upon researching online for a cheaper product, consumers choose it over the branded product? The brand will eventually die. So is branding still important?
In a panel moderated by Todd Wasserman, business editor at Mashable, at the Adobe Conference currently underway in Utah, US, Wasserman raised a hypothetical scenario.
According to Deepak Nair, VP and head of digital intelligence of US Bank, yes. “Branding creates an idea of the product and the service consumers will receive upon purchase.”
As a consumer just by looking at the product, said Nair, “I can tell what the brand tells me in terms of quality or service. So when I choose a product from a well-known brand, I am expecting a certain quality of service and quality of the product.”
He added that there is a checklist and it is directly related to the quality and known names consumers have grown up with and trust.
Ryan Bonifacino, VP of digital strategy at jewellery and accessories shop Alex and Ani, said he believes his customers come back because of what the products means to them- a key objective of branding.
“If the customer is coming to us for just the product, then we will lose them. They have to come back to us for the meaning,” Bonifacino added.
Ashish Braganza, director of global business intelligence at Lenovo added brand and key marketing is essential for Lenovo which has still to break into the North American markets. Connected marketing, engaged experience and end-to-end customer journey are three things Lenovo will be focused on going forward in its attempt to improve brand awareness.
While known as “Dell of China”, Lenovo heavily focuses on social media marketing in its Singapore hub.
“But for North America specifically we can see that when we invest dollars in branded marketing the average revenue per unit actually has an impact. It is not just money we throw into the wind but it happens to have a direct correlation to the business.”
He was, however, quick to add that the analytics aspect of the measurement of brand marketing still remains “very tricky”.
“For Lenovo, the impact is not immediate but it does show up eventually. Having the analytics to support that now using tools from Adobe we can see the impact of brand marketing and the importance of it,” he added.
The panellists agreed brand marketing dollars have a longer gestation period.
“There is always that battle on how much we should invest in brand or demand generation programmes such as paid search,” Braganza said. Moreover, timing plays an important part. “The question always is whether to run a brand marketing campaign immediately to meet the quarterly targets or wait for the lift to happen in the third or fourth quarter.”
When it comes to these hard decisions, Lenovo relies on analytics to zero in on an acceptable risk for the brand.
Nair, too, agreed that returns on brand marketing investment isn’t immediate. “It has a different purpose in the marketing mix,” he says.
“You have spend for search marketing to drive revenue right away. It is focused on a person looking for something or buying something. With brand, it is a different kind of a spend. It is more on image and what you are trying to tell consumer about you as a company and this is for the long run rather than the short term.”
How data impacts branding
Using data analytics solutions such as Adobe Insights, said Lenovo’s Braganza, the company can now better monitor conversations and listen to different customer touch points including call centres. This allows the brand to better understand the sentiments of the consumer about the brand and the perceptions, positive or negative.
Nair added that the approach to data should be to understand where the information is coming from given the multiple channels. Mobile alone is a source of huge amount of data. Seeing such a data deluge there are some key questions that need to be answered.
“Is your infrastructure there? Once that is set, you need to ask the right question from the data. You don’t want a ‘give me all information’ scenario like some companies do because you will not be able to take much out of it [as there is simply too much].”
The other important question is to find out what you are trying to do with the data in your particular business unit.
“Different departments in a company could also be looking at different aspects of consumer data. But they need to come together for a more holistic view of the customer and a better targeted brand strategy,” he said.
Meanwhile Brian Gress, VP of CRM, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas echoed the same point adding that asking the right questions about the data is vital because this will aid creativity in branding and future campaigns.
Don’t miss the target
Gress said that for his brand, customised messages are important. He added the more the brand can speak to consumers and understand the pattern of their purchasing behaviour individually, the better the results.
Braganza agreed that understanding the customer journey is critical. Lenovo uses large modelling groups to target the consumer. This means, a target group might include eight to 10 similar personalities being segmented together getting similar marketing messages. However, he added that knowing which stage of the purchase funnel through data is vital to marketing as that could alter the creativity in which the brand approaches the consumer.
Nair equated using data to target the online consumer to the experience of a retail store.
He said: “If you were to go shopping and walked into a store, a person in the store will see you looking at an item and offer you help or extra information or options. That is what we are trying to do these days online.”
With the digital solutions, he added, marketers online can make the experience a little better and personalised for consumers, acting as a retail help.
Adobe paid for this journalist’s trip to Adobe Summit 2014, held in Salt Lake City, Utah.