Where Have All the Brave Brands Gone

What do Robin Williams, the World Cup, and Ebola all have in common? They were Google’s three most searched terms in 2014. And not a single for-profit brand found itself in the top ten because of its marketing campaigns. Wondering why? Well, it might surprise some marketers to discover that consumers are not likely to go to the Internet for advertising.

Brands and agencies that are committed to finding ways to enter their consumers’ always-on worlds have a special sort of bravery. They see in new technologies and media a call to step away from the familiarity of “trusted” messaging and media strategies, and to start experimenting with new, non-traditional marketing initiatives that thrive in the digital environment. Responding to that challenge means that they must welcome digital’s unique integration-into-real-life opportunities versus simply repurposing existing assets from traditional channels.


Brands that treat the Internet like a traditional advertising medium often irritate, rather than engage, people.

For marketers, consumers represent a significant shift in power as they gain increasingly more control over how, when, and even if they see an advertisement online. Consequently, brands that fail to meet one or another of the consumer’s “need states” are struggling to make tried and tested offline advertising principles work in new, and very different, digital environments.


Four predominant needs that drive consumers to the web


So, what does brand courage look like    

To be brave, brands need to re-evaluate their roles in both the online and offline lives of their consumers, a step often involving accepting difficult truths. Core organizational structures and the traditional funding practices of marketing are being challenged at the same time as demands for results are increasing. It’s akin to changing the wheels while the car is moving, and it requires that brands become more flexible with their roles.

The next step is envisioning how digital technology can help facilitate always-on story systems, creating an optimal range of roles in consumers’ experiences. For instance, if your business relies on selling products, it is worth considering how your digital experience can provide a service layer that serves another need state. And vice versa: if you offer a service, think about what products can bolster that service to deliver scale and growth.

The global brands that are truly succeeding online have removed their fingers from the triggers of purely traditional advertising scatterguns. They have embraced consumers’ newfound powers  and have taken the time to understand need states before engaging consumers in a dialogue.

Nike, for example, has completely revolutionized its original brand offering by moving from only producing ads about sportswear to building the Nike Fuel band – a utility and lifestyle management device that directly provides consumers with relevant information about themselves. And as wearable devices continue to proliferate, Nike has now pivoted again toward software creation – apps that live on other brands’ hardware – to enhance their digital platform and engage their customers. With the launch of the Apple Watch and the Motorola Moto 360 taking the fitness tracker market by storm, Nike has an opportunity to put its brand on the wrists – and in the real lives – of aspiring and serious runners alike.


A five-point checklist for creating a brave brand:

Brands and their agencies should approach the Internet holistically. The process of creating an effective online presence shouldn’t be seen merely as a list of tasks or channels that have to be checked off.

1. Understand Consumers’ Needs
The first step for a brave brand is to develop a rich understanding of its consumers’ met and unmet needs, attitudes, and behaviors.

2. Rethink Your Brand’s Offerings
Your brand’s products and/or services should acknowledge consumer needs. If those are not being met, rethink your brand’s strategy – the center should be around the consumer.

3. Plan for a Multi-Year Transformation
Investing in new digital platforms requires a different timeline than spending on traditional media does. These types of opportunities in digital require a multi-year vision and ongoing investment.

4. Do Something Significantly Different
Creating a great brand via the Internet is not solely about technology, platforms, or software. Instead, commit to a different relationship with your consumers online and beyond.

5. Test, Learn, and Adapt
The greatest lesson of successful online branding is to be immensely agile. Test, learn, and build organizational changes around this “new way” of behaving.

To see more examples of brave brands and how to apply their tactics in your own marketing efforts, download the full article PDF below.

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