Making meaningful brand impact

Bronwyn van der Merwe
By Bronwyn van der Merwe | 10 December 2019

When it comes to spending their hard-earned money, consumers are spoilt for choice. Yet in an environment saturated by digital and traditional advertising, it’s more difficult than ever for brands to stand out and make an impact. 

In fact, research revealed at Cannes Lions 2019 showed as many as 77% of brands could simply disappear and not a single consumer would care.

It’s no longer about breaking through the clutter and attention deficit. Creatives and marketers must now disrupt complex algorithms and make consumers care about them or find a connection to something their target audience is already passionate about.

So how can brands do this? There are three key trends marketers and creatives must pay attention to if they want to succeed in making and maintaining, a meaningful impact and ultimately build longevity for their brand.

Brand impact on culture
Brands can become ingrained into the cultural fabric of society. Vegemite is a staple in every Australian pantry, and Qantas is the unofficial airline of the nation. Whether it’s breakfast or holidays, brands act as change agents for how we behave.

It could be argued that most of the content brands are producing to fill their marketing channels is meaningless and having no tangible impact on consumers. Even more worrying, more than half of business leaders rate their knowledge of brand building as average to very poor. A clear knowledge gap, combined with a lack of creative, thought-provoking content, means brands cannot expect to make a meaningful impression on consumers.

One way for brands to build their impact is by redirecting momentum with ‘cultural judo’ – taking existing conversations and hot topics and redirecting dialogue for the benefit of their brand. The Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 summer campaign is an example of cultural judo in action. MLA tapped into existing political and cultural conversations shifting the focus back on people rather than the product.

Effective cultural judo requires a certain degree of care and creativity. Many brands have suffered by tactlessly band-wagoning onto a social cause without consideration of the message they are pushing and how it aligns with their brand values.

Creativity remains the key to driving meaningful conversations and which in turn, creates meaningful impact.

The value of brand listening
With advancements in digital technology enabling even the smallest of brands to access modern advertising tools, earned media has become an increasingly important way to cut through the clutter and be noticed. Yet in a world of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automated listening, human consumer research is still the best way to understand complex audiences.

Lego remains a textbook example of the value of consumer research. Their early attempts to target girls with their toys were ineffective; only after years of extensive research watching children play, did they discover girls liked to build just as much as boys, but wanted to build different things, and in different colours.

To make a truly meaningful impact, brands must not forget the human qualities including empathy and intuitive creativity. These are what ultimately create long-lasting connections with consumers. Brands can build these connections by not only actively listening to what consumers are saying and curating the right customer experience, but also knowing when it is the right time to act.

Fenty Beauty, the makeup brand developed by pop-star Rihanna, revolutionised the beauty industry by simply listening. It found a successful and impactful place in the market when it acted on the struggles voiced by women of colour, creating an extensive range of foundation shades to suit all skin tones.

Brands must not forget there’s a person behind every purchase.

Brands driven towards purpose
The internet has equipped consumers with almost all the information they need to make purchase decisions, which means brands are now dealing with more informed and aware audiences than ever before.

What’s more interesting is an increasing number of consumers are actively seeking out brands which align with their own personal ethics and values. As many as 91 per cent of millennials switch brands based on social issues and 64 per cent of global consumers say they choose a brand based on social action.

This proves the need to firmly define your brand’s purpose is critical if you are to survive and remain relevant. Clearly defining and communicating to consumers exactly who you are and what you stand for also has bottom-line benefits including delivering greater impact on ROI and your organisation at large.

The best way to achieve this is by creating content that implants itself in people’s memories and drives them towards impact. NRMA’s recent campaign, ‘Every home and life is worth protecting’ focuses on brand purpose and positioning. NRMA partnered with the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to ensure koalas affected by the bushfires receive much needed urgent care such as water drinking stations and additional enclosures.

According to Forbes, three quarters of consumers expect brands to contribute to their well-being and quality of life. Evaluating if and how your brand is doing this is an important first step in achieving a meaningful impact.

So, what’s the answer? There are four key actions brand managers, the agencies that look after them and the people that drive them should think about when it comes to meaningful impact:

1. Think small to launch big – Nurture creativity because a simple idea can create a huge impact.
2. Listen with empathy – Invest in understanding what your consumers want and develop solutions that fill the gaps in their lives.
3. Learn from machines but trust a human – Data is undeniably important, but brands must know what to do with it.
4. Redirect the conversation – Take control of relevant conversations and employ ‘creative judo’ to out move the competition.

Creativity remains the key to cutting through the clutter. To make impact, we must direct momentum in a way that drives a meaningful impression on consumers, and ultimates drives longevity for your brand.

Bronwyn van der Merwe is general manager of Fjord Asia Pacific, part of Accenture Interactive. 

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