A scant ten years ago, the biggest global brands spoke at conferences about integrated marketing and eliminating silos. And yet at the time, no one knew the surge of control consumers would grab away from CMOs, not to mention the intensity and velocity at which it would happen, nor had anyone experienced the burden of the new accountabilities and challenges we face today.
The walls are coming down, and once disparate pathways are converging. But defining this new reality often produces more questions than answers.
Everywhere they are, consumers are now industries in their own right, powered by their mobility. Movement and technology are no longer obstacles. Consumers are creating their own new ecosystems, enablers of access and influence, and that will only continue.
What hasn’t changed is that a brand’s value is inextricably linked to its delivery of expectations. This truth is more relevant than ever, and is now as applicable to performance as it is to brand. Brand marketing and performance marketing are no longer diametrically opposed ideas. They have been replaced by the new paradigm of brand performance. It’s fundamentally changing what’s important to marketers and how it drives their decisions.
Data and its band of scientists, researchers and consultants are not merely interpreters or enablers. In fact, they’re now quantifying the very things—intrigue, love, crave, need—that brands built their foundations for connection on. Today, these insights and interpretations are the keys to driving business growth.
With so much firepower and data, the expectations shouldn’t be such a mystery. Yet, they mostly still are. As consumers, we are disappointed every day. In our minds, we play a movie with an unspoken, constantly edited script. Our lives and interests change by the minute. Marketers are building new models to solve for this disconnection. Disruptors are experimenting at a pace their traditional counterparts never have. But even the disruptors are getting caught playing catch-up to the speed and sophistication of the people they’re engaging with.
The impact of the right metrics and how they change businesses
What, then, is the path forward? Determining the essential metric(s) that both delivers on expectations and incites growth is fundamental to a business’ viability. Because once that solution is determined, the inevitable new pathways and constant change might test progress, but they’ll have more trouble deterring it.
Traditional performance-oriented measurement like ROAS (return on advertising spend), impression share growth, or other one-dimensional metrics won’t capture how consumers really behave, or what they’re demanding. Brand-based emotion, alone, won’t either. Brands must be vigilant to the change happening around—and to—them. They must be willing to constantly seek out new metrics in order to restart or accelerate growth, and to uncover the new delivery of expectations in ways that meaningfully drive both connection and performance.
Here are just a few examples of companies that get it:
“Then she said something arresting: ‘You wear other jeans, but you live in Levi’s.’ I still get goosebumps when I recall that moment. To me, her words captured the essence of our brand. ‘Live in Levi’s’ became our advertising tagline. That experience is an illustration of how much value can come from listening to consumers.” —Chip Bergh, CEO, Levi Strauss
“In fact, people regularly wear only 20 percent of their closets, leading to an average of 81 pounds of clothing waste per person every year (this is insane!). Instead, you can access a dream closet in the cloud to call upon the clothes you want to wear in the moment and return them when they’re no longer useful. Since joining Unlimited, 70 percent report spending less money on clothing, and 52 percent report being more open to experimentation and taking wardrobe risks. Members are wearing rented outfits between 10 and 15 days a month, mostly for work and casual weekend activities — that’s one-third to half their time! And, renting has made members feel savvier, more environmentally responsible and happier.” —Jennifer Hyman, CEO, Rent the Runway
“I recently came across a great example of this in healthcare. Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden texts every blood donor immediately after donating to say, ‘Thank you.’ Nice touch. But what’s really powerful is that they text them again when a patient in need has benefited from their blood donation. Imagine how that would make you feel. Pretty awesome I suspect. And you’ll have a high propensity to donate again.” —Terry Cordeiro, head of Product Management, Applied Science and Intelligent Products for Group Transformation, Lloyds Bank (from the paper “Let’s Get Emotional”)
What the above have in common is the ability to listen, measure, interpret and, most important, act upon a consumer insight to deliver performance—and to deliver on expectations, the essential metrics fueling growth.
You must embrace the changes required to grow, head on
The professional skills and capabilities to deliver on this mandate are daunting. No one particular expertise or even data can fully reveal consumer need nor solve the marketing required to deliver on it. For the reality to meet the mysterious expectation suggested above requires all available data and experts to interpret the insights.
A brand performance marketer today requires a litigator’s tenacity and the right data to interrogate, a scientist’s mind to discern nuance and meaningful insights, a profound understanding and empathy for people’s chosen journeys, and full knowledge of the technology and systems to achieve it.
With trusted outside partners or internal agencies, the challenge is the same.
Brands (with a capital B) need to work harder too.