The Short & The Long Of It: Focus On Brand Building In A Post-Digital World

The Short & The Long Of It: Focus On Brand Building In A Post-Digital World
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In this opinion piece, innovation expert Dan Machen (pictured above) explains why marketers and agencies should start to work on their short game to drive longer-term brand value.

In a post-digital world, we should continue to learn from seminal works like Peter Field and Les Binet’s The Long and the Short of It, and focus on longer-term brand building and value share growth. But we need to work on our short game, looking at digital activation and investing selectively to build brands from the bottom up.

Whether agency types or client folk, we’ve all been there – the interminable cross-agency brand planning meeting. Coffee, biscuits and flipcharts.

Flipcharts, flipcharts everywhere, but not a thought to think! How did it come to this?

An ever-shifting sea of characters, channels and disciplines. If us agencies don’t even know who everyone is around our Camelot-like round tables, then what chance do clients have?

And beyond that, if our agency and client team is so large as to not even be recallable, how can it be manageable, or truly effective?

An erstwhile tech client with a similarly huge cross-functional team admitted his organisation over-invested in a box-ticking comms plan and underperformed. An audience segment here, a digital execution there, but in final analysis, this didn’t move the dial on brand perception or market share.

There is too thoughtless proliferation when it comes to digital activation, with many still seeing it as the ‘the dirty end’ of marketing. From this outmoded perspective, it’s perhaps not surprising that Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed recently described digital platforms as “little better than a swamp”.

Add to this P&G pulling $180 million of digital spend in 2017 over ‘marketing to bots’ while reporting no detrimental impact on its business, and we have a further sense that there’s too much commoditised thinking and too little appreciation for what digital can do best. The approach too often seems to be Facebook tick, Instagram tick, Snapchat tick. Why do we have to box-tick? Why not focus on less and create more quality content versus adding to the noise?

With that in mind, how can we start to work on our short game to drive longer-term brand value? Here’s a few thought starters from my time in the trenches:

Adopt longer-term team focus

Often previous learnings go out of the window when personnel change, this year’s brief lands from global lands, or the latest shiny social opportunity rises. We need to do more to retain knowledge capital from previous years around successful strategies, media value, or (God forbid) learnings from sales. Create knowledge banks that will endure around the brand year on year. A smaller team of more senior brand custodians is vital for continuity here.

Revisit customer journeys and inflection points

Consider how best to meet your audiences mindset in the medium and moment. We need to really think about the customer journey, comms planning and potential moments of truth.

Working on a camera brand at a previous agency, we found investing more in their online community, peer-to-peer tutorials and recommendations paid dividends in tandem with the TVC at the time. This was in spite of an initial push around Instagram – because ‘that’s where cool photographers are’.

Build long-term value from short-term interactions

Particularly in channels like social, think about how fleeting interactions can add long-term brand value. We can improve cognitive comprehension by using neuroscience techniques to promote long-term memory and brand recall at the moment of truth. Simply put, this comes down to making sure our activation is:

  • Memorable – make distinctive use of key brand assets (à la Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow) to promote long-term memory. This includes how we deploy logos, icons, brand colours and audio signatures. In digital, this might mean placing the asset at the start of content, like Guinness does by using it’s Harp icon up front in social video.
  • Moving – activating emotion or pre-existing memories promotes greater potential recall. We can do this through ‘evocative language’ (e.g. ‘I’ve had a rough day’ is more evocative that ‘I’ve had a bad day’, as it evokes memory around what ‘rough’ feels like). Faces and eye contact can make a casual glance more weighty, as we tend to mirror the emotion of the person we are looking at. Finally, the use of music in sync with visuals can make communication more memorable, as it activates two channels of working memory at once – visual and audio.
  • Mindful – we have to be aware of the context people are in as they selectively pay attention to what meets their mindset in the moment. We need to really think about communications in the specific context and time audiences will receive them. This is the difference between successfully building future brand value and being a ‘vicar at a disco’.

Today’s brand landscape demands that we better use digital to drive long-term value share; less box-ticking and more putting budget where it counts in a simpler brand plan that builds value from the bottom to top. It’s a different playing field, but the game remains the same. That’s the short and the long of it.

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brand building Dan Machen

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