The marketing landscape was so simple just 20 years ago. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry dominated advertising ad spend with big glossy print ads, expensive TV commercials, and bold out of home placements. And consumers could be easily reached with a top-down message through a few mass media placements.
But today, the branding and marketing landscape is far more fragmented, fiercely contested, complex and competitive than ever before. Consider, for example, how brands from a myriad of industries and sectors are now competing for the consumer’s attention in an increasingly cluttered landscape.
While the FMCG industry saw a six percent increase in ad spend in 2012 (Nielsen’s Global Ad Spend by Sector 2013), sectors such as telecoms, media and automotive are competing heavily in terms of year-on-year ad growth. Retailers, travel companies, and more are also becoming more aggressive in the brand space.
At the same time, new technologies and changes in consumer behaviour are also changing the brandscape. Social media is just one example – it is becoming a vital part of any forward-thinking organisation’s strategy to ensure the vibrancy and sustainability of its brand. One indication lies in the fact that over 300 brands were nominated for the UK Social Brands 100 survey in 2012, a number that rose to 715 this year. The increase shows that more brands are engaged in social media and social media is becoming embedded in how many brands now do business.
What this means in practice is that companies need to rethink how they employ brand building blocks in their strategies. They need to look at technology not only as an enabler of communication, but also as a core driver of creativity.
In this environment, we are seeing communications strategies and touch points becoming more personal and more engaging. For example, among our clients we see a huge effort to use technology to shift from a brand push to a brand pull strategy as they seek to be more relevant and sustainable in today’s marketplace
This shift in thinking has a profound impact on marketing choices, spend and approaches. Marketing directors and CMOs realise that they need to rethink how they sell to and service consumers in a time where consumer behaviours and expectations are evolving at a rapid speed. One implication for brands is that marketing, sales and customer service are closer than ever before. Digital consumers expect instant responses to their needs 24/7, which means that brands need customer-service channels that are able to deliver real-time service, information and content – all day and every day.
What this means is that brands can no longer adopt a traditional, linear model of communications. Gone are the days where brands can invest in pure ATL or customer service efforts in an attempt to impact sales or gain customer loyalty. Tomorrow’s most successful brands will be those that are agile and adaptable, rather than those that spend the most money on traditional marketing.
Brands that want to be relevant in this new world should follow the lead of organisations such as Starbucks, which is continually investing in social networks, the meaning of its brand to consumers, and marketplace cultures. It has a strategy built around an understanding that brand meanings are appropriated, reconstructed, and, in some cases, contested by customers.
Any business that wants to remain competitive in this changing world should look at how to evolve its business in the same way. It is all about building a strategy that takes into account how the brandscape changes as consumers’ expectations change and technology shifts. Companies that are stuck in the old mode of thinking will be left behind by their competitors in this changing environment.
Stephanie Houslay is general manager at Acceleration Media.
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