Brand Management in 2017: Think outside the bubble – Written by Mr. Vinod Kunj, Managing Partner, thought blurb
Many events in 2016 have variously been described as shocking, surprising, or probably just a social experiment gone horribly wrong. I am going to focus on just one thing. A lot has happened this year that did not make sense. In other words, we were not expecting these things to happen.
I read a recent article about how Brexit and Trump showed the world that the pollsters had been absolutely wrong. Predictions had been made based on filter bubbles that only told us what we wanted to hear. When the reality hit, that’s when we were surprised.
Market research is more important today than it has ever been. Brand management in the new year will increasingly need more objective market intelligence than we currently have.
As advertising and marketing professionals we need to guard against these marketing bubbles. Spending the client’s money on unreliable premises is the worst form of unprofessionalism in our business. And what if we cannot break away from it? Ah, then we need to consider all the options and a lot of Plans B.
On one hand, we have access to social media and have a sense of what people are thinking. On the other, the amount of information is immense and it takes a lot of wading to get at an insight.
In a recent interview SylSaller, CMO of Diageo said, “We are not the average consumer. To understand what real people want, we need to get out and talk to them, observe them, understand their lives. Another take on this – the more senior you are, the more likely you are to get ‘managed’.”
And I see this everywhere. Brands are not even willing to look at their primary data to look for insights into their public image.
So where does one go from here? I believe there are Artificial Intelligence-based algorithms that can predict market trends. I’m all for it, if it cuts through the gargantuan pile of digital information we already have. But there will always be multiple ways of looking at the same data. I would take the cautious route and suggest that we infer from the predictions rather than commit to them.
Another fascinating trend is automation. Essentially, AI systems are gradually coming into areas like media planning. AI based content generation and collation is already creeping in. Self-service technology at the client’s end will increasingly erode his dependence on his agency. This is where the task of the agency becomes even more focused. Get away from the mechanics of the process, and get into the serious strategy business.
Some of the fundamentals of marketing and brand management will have to evolve with the age. Traditionally, a brand’s image and body language has always been considered to be static and inflexible. Once the brand personality is set, all messaging is designed to be delivered to a target audience. This is the bubble in which marketing people have long lived.
That paradigm has changed. The brand no longer delivers messaging to the intended target, the consumer searches for a brand that appeals to him.
This changes the marketing task. The brand may have to be multiple ideals to multiple target audiences, because the consumer doesn’t consider himself a part of a multitude, vaguely described as an ‘audience’. If the consumer thinks like an individual, so must the brand.
We may see this as fracturing, but underneath it all lies a vast untapped opportunity. Take a look at brands like Nike, Bacardi and Audi, for example. Each one has multiple lines of communication that cater to individual consumer descriptions. These consumers are organized into communities of practice. Nike realized very early that despite their overall brand personality which promoted excellence in sport and fitness, it was still too vague for the consumer. The soccer fan probably had no interest in American football. The basketball fan probably had little or no interest in cross-training.
This is the insight that created their marketing strategy on the digital platform. Isolate individual communities of practice, deliver individually crafted messaging to them. Be all things to everybody in your target audience. This flies directly in the face of conventional marketing, but think about it, it works.
The hashtag is the new baseline. The trend is the brand now. That’s the way the tide is turning. It may be time to roll with it.