In developed markets, the scarcest commodity is not water or food, it’s someone’s attention. We’re bombarded by on average, 5,000+ advertisements and brand exposures per day depending on one’s media consumption habbits1. These aren’t just ads – but passing by labels in a grocery store for example or the fact that Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day and is game for more. Using the broader calculation of what constitutes advertising, such as viewing the label of a brand in a grocery store, the figure grows exponentially to 20,000+ exposures. Interestingly, the average number of “ads only” that deliver engagement equates to 12. Statistically, that’s an incredibly poor rate of return on advertising and brand performance.
So how do brands fit into the consumer equation today? The branding establishment is grounded in the basis of how a brand differentiates a company or product from a defined competitive set of companies and/or products. It’s a classic dictum: To audience W, brand X is Y and supported by Z1, Z2, Z3. And it’s not wrong. The company or product does need to understand its alignment and relationships within a market space. Having said this, what we find interesting is that in this age of internet of things (IoT) that people are forgoing products and instead increasingly buying experiences.
Also important is that people are more comfortable with the interconnectivity of experiences – that everything is connected to other things – to make occasions more anticipatory, intuitive and rich with other machines and other people. So what separates a brand in positioning is probably less important that what brings people and things together in a collective experience. For example: whether your Nike + syncs correctly with your phone and whether you’re able to connect with a running group this morning, matters immensely and represents the collective value of the brand experience.
In today’s world, the brands that scream the loudest will no longer command the most attention; the ones that offer useful information or things, such as seamless cross device integration, will instead. In our business, we advocate and construct brands to foster co-participation between people and companies in a shared narrative theme that drive multiple story opportunities. The themes derived are themes of participation and connection, not differentiation and separation. And the stories generated are for story’s sake, providing information and utility, value and authenticity, not the “bait and switch” of sponsored or even native content for example. If a company can provide something useful and facilitate a great experience, there’s reason for a person to reward the company with his/ her attention.
Perhaps more important, based on significant research for well recognized brands, we’re typically able to uncover larger themes of participation that ladder back to a company’s established and entrenched attributes. We never advocate abandoning brand attributes or positioning but note that there are certain themes that foster participation over others. Ultimately, the purpose of a “brand” must be to foster connectivity between the desired outcomes, community of advocates and the experience. We’ll leave you with a few names of companies that achieved success in redefining the purpose of a brand vs. well entrenched competitors.
In the end, if you look at your own brand through this lens, the questions you have to ask yourself are quite simple. What is the purpose of our brand and do we connect the experience of the brand to the desired behavior in a way that’s uniquely ownable?
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To contact the author
Rick Shaughnessy, Partner
1Source: 9/14 Media Dynamics, Inc.