News & Views

Opinion / Good Impressions

by Contagious Contributor

Nigel Hollis, executive vice president and chief global analyst, Millward Brown on how to stop fragmented media leading to a fragmented brand

The ultimate goal of marketing is to make a brand the instinctive choice when the need arises. That’s what P&G had in mind when it introduced the idea of the first moment of truth – when a shopper recognises and chooses a brand in-store – but it’s equally applicable to choices made out of store, for instance when someone reviews search results. Choice is not just triggered by the immediate brand exposure, but all previous exposures – provided the brand is recognised.

If ads are to influence future behaviour, not just the present, the impressions and feelings they evoke must come to mind at the moment of decision, leading the consumer to instantly recognise and be drawn to the brand. For this to happen, brand identity and story need to be strongly reinforced across all channels to deliver a coherent impression. If this is achieved then all media will work more effectively, and no single ad exposure has to do all the heavy lifting on its own.

Creating this synergy is becoming harder and harder to achieve. Never mind the fragmentation of traditional channels; digital is exploding into mobile, display, search, social and video, each executed by different people and lending its own unique tone to the communication. With multiple agencies involved it’s all too easy for campaigns to become disjointed, undermining their influence on people’s brand impressions. Quite simply, a fragmented brand is a weaker brand.

The recognition challenge

The connective tissue between ad exposures in multiple channels is the brand itself. When different channels deliver different messages people will readily integrate those messages in their own minds, if the brand is easily noticed, recognised and remembered.

There are two aspects to the recognition challenge:

People simply don’t see the brand

The brand is not seen or attention is diverted to something else when the brand is visible. This happens all the time, irrespective of the media channel. People’s interest in what’s shown and said is not directed to include the brand. Millward Brown’s eye tracking database finds that, on average, only one in five people give the typical display ad three seconds of attention and the use of frames often means the brand is not visible when they do. Like art, whether an ad is well-branded is in the eye of the beholder, so testing an execution in advance is vital.

People fail to recognise the brand when they do see it

The brand identity is not well established in people's memories or distinctive enough. This issue is far more problematic since its influence extends beyond individual executions to the point of purchase. Sales of Tropicana in the US dropped 20% following a pack change, when removing an iconic brand cue left shoppers confused and open to choosing other brands. Weak brand recognition is often a result of marketers making assumptions about what cues will identify their brand. Is red Vodafone or Coca-Cola? Is blue IBM or Facebook?

So what’s the solution? First, make sure everyone involved in advertising and promoting the brand knows what it does and doesn’t stand for. Develop a compelling and distinctive identity based around what makes it meaningfully different from competitors. Whereas the impression or message may need to change depending on the media task, the brand essence and cues must be used consistently across all touchpoints to tell a cohesive, seamless story.

If the brand is not immediately recognised, in most cases that impression is simply wasted. When it comes to the right moment you want all prior exposures to influence the purchase decision – not just one.