Brand-Building Resurfaces As a Priority in 2020

January 9, 2020 Anne Curtin

Over the past several years, we’ve seen companies dedicate more of their resources to tackling the digital space and the promise of data-driven marketing. This shift has placed more emphasis on tactical optimizations designed to drive ‘quick wins’ for the business. And with CMOs in a desperate fight for survival, who can blame them. 

But this short-termism has come at the expense of long-term branding building. Gap recently admitted it made the mistake of advertising its discounts at the expense of building brand loyalty for Old Navy. Gap joins brands such as Adidas, Booking Holding and Kraft Heinz who are moving spending back to brand marketing after realizing they were spending too much in areas such as performance marketing.

So, if going all-in on digital performance isn’t the best way to prove value, then what is?

The path to marketing redemption in 2020 and beyond will require balancing long-term brand building with the demands of growth. And that means putting more focus on understanding the impact of creative on brand equity. 

“Consumers aren’t necessarily more or less adverse to advertising, but they are becoming much more selective about the companies they buy from and the brands they invest in based on the values they proffer and the context in which those ads appear,” says Lana Busignani, EVP, U.S. Analytics for Nielsen. “Earning their business will mean rethinking traditional value propositions, being more daring with creative, and even taking a stand on a social or political issue.”

Busignani cited Libresse's Viva la Vulva campaign as a great example of a brand that’s embracing this approach to much success. The campaign celebrates femininity after decades of feminine product ads that peddled shame and discomfort around a woman’s period – and it’s been universally embraced by women. 

“It’s companies like this that are taking risks with their creative, living up to the values they represent, and advertising in the places that support those values that will see the most success in the months and years ahead,” she says.

Emerging Channels Provide a Way Forward

Fortunately, there could be ample opportunities for marketers to prove their worth as developing strong brands becomes paramount in 2020. Emerging channels, such as streaming or gaming, may be difficult to master, but they also open the window for innovation.

“Platforms like NetFlix and e-gaming aren’t completely devoid of advertising,” says Busignani. “In fact, these kinds of ad-free platforms are actually opening up new opportunities for brand building by enabling brands to be present in content and the potential to leverage context that’s in support of – and consistent with – brand values. Products featured in a movie or television show present opportunities for brands to associate themselves with content that is consistent with their values and shape desired perceptions of their brand.”

Moreover, today’s consumers are spending more and more of their time consuming content and media. This makes them more reachable than ever before. Unlike traditional, broad-based demographic vehicles, these platforms offer advertisers the opportunity to be more connected and relevant to their desired audiences. “Brand-building won’t necessarily be harder or easier because of these new channels, but it will certainly have a lot more potential to hit the mark,” says Busignani.

The Key to Survival

Companies that focus too much on the short term and ignore the investment in the long-term brand often pay a price. The key to survival will mean embracing a comprehensive, full-funnel approach that builds stronger connections with consumers and optimizes returns in the short run, while also improving brand health in the long run.

By striking this balance – and successfully mastering the increasingly complex mix of media channels at their disposal – CMOs can reaffirm their value and find stronger footing amid the churn.

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