12 Apr 2018

Head of Strategy Jane Madden, talks role of 'brand'

Full piece:
For decades, the ideology that Brand is King has been one of the core beliefs held by the marketing industry. ‘Brand’ has been considered the driver of choice for most consumers. This philosophy has evolved based on the belief that in a commoditized market, ‘extrinsics’ are what differentiate. In a world where products are commoditized and price is no longer a factor, consumers will fall back on the feelings, memories and associations they have with the brand to inform their choice. For a long time, this was an all-encompassing truth (at least to marketing professionals) and over that time, huge investments were made into structures that perpetuate this ideology.
However, the new economy is in full swing and the rules are changing, both for consumers and for brands. The point of consideration and the point of purchase are coinciding which is almost eliminating the purchase journey as we know it. In a seismic shift, consumers are now aware that they are no longer at the mercy of marketing machines pushing specific narratives. This has resulted in consumers with higher expectations of the brands they purchase and a demand for seamless experiences at every touchpoint.
The implications for brands in this new economy are far-reaching. When all that’s needed is a click of the mouse to review, buy, or bounce to another site, the potential to make or break brands and companies truly lies in the hands of the consumer. This changed environment means all brands are now digitally-enabled ecommerce brands – and they need to behave like service brands, regardless of category.
Now that consumers have these new expectations, it is vital the industry understands the new role brands now play. Brands are obliged to set high standards that ensure they provide frictionless interaction and seamless experiences; putting the customer front and centre. Many of the most successful brands of the last five years have grown on the back of delivering great experiences – great communications alone will not cut it. In fact, many of them don’t advertise at all. New economy brands are being built on functional delivery rather than emotional appeal. When it comes to engaging consumers and driving desire, great creative work will always be the most effective weapon at a brand’s disposal. But brands can no longer rely on great creative alone to fill the funnel.  On the whole, ‘the funnel’ remains unchanged, but how consumers are pushed into and through it has been fundamentally altered by the advent of technology and the ever-changing role of media.
So with this in mind, how can brands continue to fill the funnel? By operating more in the world of tangibles rather than intangibles alone. Whilst established brands are somewhat protected, having built legacy and ingrained themselves in consumer psyches over decades, the rules are very different for emerging brands.
Affinity has lost its appeal as a driver of growth and we see again and again with the mega-brands of the new economy such as AirBnB, MyTaxi or Deliveroo, that when it comes to emotional appeal, experience is now king.
‘a good product experience is emotional: think of the enjoyment of first using park assist on your new car, the first time you ordered groceries on your flight home, or the first time you played music in a different room over wifi. An amazing product experience can be stirring, partly for novelty and partly for utility.’ Charlie Ebdy, The Tortoise and the Hare 2015