Brand Management in the Age of the Connected Consumer

Posted on: January 16th, 2012 by Gib Bassett No Comments

It’s not surprising that Procter & Gamble pioneered the discipline of Brand Management, but what you may not know is the reason. In the 1930s, as P&G entered single categories with multiple products it became apparent that for each to succeed a new model was needed to focus resources on supporting individual brands; absent this shift, products without clear differentiation competed for both internal marketing resources and customers.

 

Since then, times have changed, and so has P&G. In a recent interview CEO Robert McDonald described how the company was embracing all things digital in order to remain a dominant force.

"…it’s now possible to have a one-on-one relationship with every consumer in the world. The more intimate the relationship, the more indispensable it becomes. We want to be the company that creates those indispensable relationships with our brands, and digital technology enables this.”

Traditional one-way brand messages broadcast to a homogenous audience are losing effectiveness at a time of unprecedented consumer adoption of digital channels -- from the web and email, to mobile and social media. The "consumer connectedness” this environment yields means consumers are as much in control of brand meaning and value as the company itself.

 

Brand management isn’t going anywhere and remains a critical function in Consumer Goods, but what is interesting about digital is the opportunity it presents across brands. Digital paves the way for direct consumer relationships that in the past were the domain of retailers, yet few Consumer Goods brands have realized significant benefits. Reasons vary, but for most, digital is an extension of the brand marketing model, where efforts happen within silos and are outsourced to agencies.

 

As opposed to Brand Management of individual products or product lines, Consumer Management seeks to capture deep consumer understanding within and across brands. Consider that consumers who research, browse and buy via multiple channels have been shown to be the most valuable – as in those who spend the greatest, most frequently and often refer others or are looked upon as credible influencers.

 

Even Google recognizes this, coining the term "zero moment of truth,” a play on words with a P&G originated concept that seeks to influence shoppers at different stages leading to selection at the shelf. Google posits there are no such moments; that product selection decisions are fully made outside the influence of the store by digitally connected consumers.

 

This "omni-channel” consumer is becoming the norm as smartphones replace less sophisticated feature phones and adoption of digital channels like email and social media proliferate. These individuals represent a more highly engaged audience that invests mindshare in brand relationships. They are the target of any b-to-c business, especially retailers.

Now consider some of the ways brands engage with consumers digitally, and the data these efforts generate.

    • Branded smartphone applications, either utilities such as shopping helpers or promotional in nature, are becoming commonplace. Often to activate key features of these applications, consumers must register, self-identify and elect to receive push or geo-aware notifications.
    • Opt in channels like email and SMS text messaging are commonplace in a lot of brand marketing, as either a promotional entry mechanism or communication channel. Permissions typically carry with them consumer demographic, attitudinal and preferences data.
    • Brand websites typically feature user registration, presenting the opportunity to customize the user experience based on self-identified interests, and enable sharing of content via other channels such as email or social media. Data is captured in both cases, to say nothing of the data generated by web activity itself.
    • Brand presence in social media is now common, claiming thousands of fans or followers, each of whom in turn have unique characteristics captured as data and often made available to the brand. Their influence or sentiment can be gauged, recorded and levered as part of many marketing efforts, from product trial and launch to promotions intended to increase a brand’s following via network sharing.

It’s no small challenge to isolate individual consumers across every brand marketing interaction, regardless of agency, product, campaign, channel or type of data (many times unstructured), yet this is precisely what Teradata has mastered. By enabling integration on this level, Consumer Insights becomes a living asset for the entire Consumer Goods organization, to be leveraged within and across brands -- even by the very agencies sought out for their creative, media buying and execution expertise. Consider the possibilities enabled via:

    • Consumer profiles fed with data from every brand’s efforts such that brand teams have access to insights that yield more relevant interactions based on preferences, permissions and interaction history.
    • Benefits beyond marketing, to include the sales organization and research and development. Consumer segmentation by geography, down to the store level via inference or self identification, can inform trade promotion messages, tactics and investment strategies based on highly engaged (and valuable) consumers. Such inference can also tie digital efforts to how they affect the path to purchase. The same insights represent a resource to help R&D innovate faster and ultimately yield more successful new product launches.
    • The ability to stage interactions across brands to avoid the same intra-company competition Brand Management was created to resolve. Consumers have only so much mindshare to give in today’s marketing-message saturated environment.
    • Never-before possible cross-brand marketing opportunities to take advantage of analytics designed to surface like-segments, response propensities and optimal marketing mixes.

Marketing organizations unaccustomed to this sort of thinking should heed advice from experts such as Forrester, who’s research shows integrated data key to unlocking the value of digital marketing:

"Forrester expects a convergence of IT and marketing budgets as the marketing budget becomes increasingly digital; and digital marketing campaigns, with their outcomes, become intertwined with customer data systems and other back-office systems.”

"The new marketing systems will need integration to be effective. Emerging marketing technologies successfully use multiple classes of systems, from the Web to CRM to order processing to ERP, as data sources. Without integration, data from one system has to be moved to another via clunky batch interfaces, or worse (e.g., "sneakernets”), which slows down marketing analytics, decision-making, and action taking, if the newer marketing technologies are going to work properly.

"Customer behavior analysis is predicated upon good database management, business analytics, and reporting — technology and skills that IT has long provided to business users across the enterprise.”

Similar to how a retailer views its customers according to the products in a market basket to optimize that transaction, Consumer Goods makers should seek insights into consumers according to the brands they engage with to inform intelligent path to purchase strategies. Doing so offers many benefits that set the stage for even greater value by integrating the consumer marketing environment with retail sales and production data.

 

Gib Bassett 

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