In the digital age, there are few business assets more valuable than a powerful brand. Brands are infused with meaning. They’re a signal amid the noise. The best represent a strong message and a promise.
And in today’s media and advertising landscape, brands – and all that they mean to consumers – matter more than ever. Our cultural affinity for meaningful brand relationships has exploded. People want brands. They even love them.
But why? To capitalize on it, marketers need to first understand what’s driving brand affinity. Here are a few factors to consider.
1. The content explosion has empowered consumers (especially millennials).
The digital media landscape has seen incredible growth. Reports estimate that there are now more than 120 media platforms regularly used for marketing – from linear TV to top websites to mobile apps. More media channels mean more choice for consumers. For marketers, it spells both opportunity and competition for consumer attention. Empowered consumers – in the digital era, where they control connections, discoverability and interactivity – are more discriminating than at any point in history.
Brand identity is more meaningful now for this reason. To rise above the noise and make a mark in consumers' minds, strong and resonant brands have unique value. Look at millennials. Some marketers bemoan their skepticism, but as an audience, millennials are the most brand-loyal generation. 64% say they’re more loyal to brands than their parents. For marketers, building a strong brand is about building relationships with customers and standing out from the competition. Here, campaigns, content and channels matter for a message to truly break through, but the brand recognition and quotient level, to start, are critical.
2. In the “fake news” era, people want trusted brands.
Consumers and advertisers are both facing an erosion of trust today. Fake news and annoying, impersonal ad experiences are at the root. Both are driven by the endless supply of media channels. Strong brands, however, can represent a promise to consumers that inspires confidence.
But this has to happen the right way. Because customers are wary, building and maintaining credibility makes all the difference for a brand. According to new research by Seattle University, consumers demand credibility in their marketing campaigns and are more likely to view certain tactics as positive and others as deceptive. The tactics and inventory choices in a campaign influence how a brand’s credibility is perceived. While brands have built-in reservoirs of goodwill, maximizing the opportunity means pairing the brand with well-regarded channels, platforms, and media inventory for the long term.
3. Brand engagement is now the ultimate form of self-expression.
Today, the values associated with a brand matter more than ever, because the way that audiences interact with them has fundamentally changed. For consumers, every choice in the media they consume, every engagement and every purchase is a reflection of who they are. According to a study by the University of Mannheim, Germany, consumers use brands to “to express one’s actual self, to enhance the self-concept by choosing brands that are congruent to one’s ideal self-concept, and for social approval in the respective social surrounding.” Having these deeper connections with consumers has raised the bar for success. It’s a challenge, as well as an enormous opportunity.
If consumers attach more value to each and every brand interaction, then they’re more inclined to be selective. For brands, however, it’s an occasion to go above and beyond. It’s an opportunity to move from being a functional product or service to satisfying the consumer’s emotional needs and reinforcing their identity. This is what defines successful brands and where the best advertisers shine. And when success is achieved, it can mean lifelong loyalty.
Brands have never mattered more. The media and marketing landscape has evolved dramatically, creating a massive demand for them. As consumers choose whether to dedicate the most precious of all commodities to brand messages – their time and attention – to take advantage, advertisers need to build and invest in the powerful relationship between customers and their brands.
John DeVine is the chief revenue officer for Oath