“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Indian Proverb
In today’s fast-paced, overly-automated, and digitally-driven society, humanity is becoming the new premium. The internet constantly rewards us with convenience and instant gratification, making the human touch increasingly scarcer and genuinely coveted.
In this new digital economy, brands can no longer afford to be faceless entities. To survive, brands need to connect with audiences, pull at their heartstrings, and engage with them on a much deeper level than ever before. That’s where brand storytelling comes in.
Brand storytelling is the art of connecting the hearts and minds of customers to shared values and ideals that define the “beautiful truth” of why the brand exists and who benefits from its existence. Brand storytelling is no longer a nice to have and it isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a tangible way to empathize with customers and build a relationship. It is a need to have, and what will ultimately maximize your brand’s visibility, profit, and impact. Treat it as a compass for your marketing strategy and the result will be a brand that is as profitable as it is captivating.
Storytelling will not only increase your brand favorability in your audience’s eyes, it can also be up to 22 times more memorable than facts. Stories are scientifically proven to get a person’s attention. In fact, stories stimulate brain activity. When we read or hear plot points our neurons start firing – We’re hardwired for stories, which is why storytelling conveys marketing messages so well. A good story gives your customers a “map” that makes intuitive sense and helps them engage with your brand. A story guides them through the noise, including the noise you may inadvertently mix in with your current marketing.
Long-term brand loyalty is created by businesses that understand this inherent human craving for connection, can wrap their vision into a beautiful and captivating story and clearly communicate this story to their audience using an effective and heartfelt marketing strategy.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, while there has been a shift, there’s been no fundamental rewiring of the consumer. The modern consumer is a construct of growing economic pressure and increasing competitive options.
To caveat, yes, consumers are changing. They are more capricious and less loyal. They have less time but are more conscientious. They prefer experiences over products. I know, we’re tired of hearing about them, but it is the millennials that are reshaping the consumption trajectory, with Gen Z now nipping at their heels. Interestingly, analysis of spending patterns of similarly aged consumers to today’s Millennials over a 30-year period revealed few significant shifts in spending allocation, with changes confined to a tight one percent to two percent range. The real differences show up in several non-discretionary expenditure categories. A growing share of the millennial’s wallet is going toward health care expenses, housing costs, and education, highlighting not so much a change in the consumer, but rather a change in the economic pressures that the young consumer is under.
*I apologize if David Bowie’s Under Pressure is stuck in your head for a while…
Branding is no longer just a marketing or communications initiative. Research from Deloitte indicates that over 40% of companies believe that employer branding is a “must have” in their talent acquisition strategies.
So what exactly is employer branding? Similar to the way a corporate brand works, an employer brand includes the market’s perception of your company as an employer and describes your promise (or employee value proposition) to employees in exchange for their experience, talents, contacts, or skills. Employer branding is about defining the essence of your brand, both how it’s unique and what it stands for and then crafting and aligning those aspirations with the people you’re looking to attract. It communicates that your organization is a highly-desirable employer and a great place to work, which boosts recruitment efforts and the engagement and retention of your current employees.
Why is this so important? Not investing in employer branding poses a significant opportunity cost. In fact, according to LinkedIn, it costs companies who fail to invest in their reputation as an employer an average of $5,000 per employee. A poll from CR Magazine showed that almost 50% of workers said they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even with a big increase in compensation. This all adds up. With a negative, or non-existent employer brand, organizations are likely spending 10% more per employee hired.
Conceiving benefits and rewards that match the brand’s ethos and linking those to brand building strategies is key. Messaging and initiatives play critical roles in engaging and uniting current employees behind the brand and its vision – as well as in attracting new talent. According to Jobvite, most recruiters feel the best medium for growing an employer brand is social media (47%), followed by company website (21%) and marketing and advertising (12%). The aim should always be to try to emphasize how your brand is different and encapsulate the type of people with whom you want the business to be associated. As employer branding becomes ever more paramount, harnessing social media and properly leveraging the voices of your employees will be key for long term success.
Having a purpose behind your brand is not a new revelation. Long before the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can be viewed as people, businesses were relying on their purpose-driven brand to gain a foothold in their industry. However, looking to 2020, we will see purpose 2.0, where purpose demonstrates measurable impact. The strongest marketers will help organizations make a shift from talking purpose to demonstrating how taking action with purpose results in a meaningful, measurable difference. In other words, moving from ads to acts to gain “share of heart.”
Purpose must be genuinely embedded in the roots of a business and should be a filter which informs all business decision making. We have seen many compelling case studies where more purposeful brands and businesses out-perform their categories – attracting the best and brightest talent to work at the company. It’s a fact, share of heart drives profit. Purpose and values-driven brands have been shown to outperform comparison companies by 16 to one. They enjoy 400% higher revenues, 700% greater job growth and 1,200% higher stock prices. In 2020, purpose will be key to driving accelerated growth and making a measurable difference to the world.
A bigger-is-better mentality has swept the tech and media industries over the past 18 months, as companies have spent $200 billion on a series of megamergers that have reshaped the American business landscape. In a wave of merger mania, the nation’s third and fourth-largest wireless carriers, T-Mobile and Sprint, are moving closer to becoming a significant rival to AT&T and Verizon. The new company, T-Mobile, would have about 100 million customers, disrupt the current system and spark the 5G economy. With real, nationwide 5G for all, the New T-Mobile will open massive wireless highways and accessibility for Americans.
The promise of 5G networks opens the door to more connectivity and unique locations that don’t have Wi-Fi. Ericsson predicts that 5G coverage will reach 45% of the world’s population by the end of 2024. When looking only at North America, that increases to 63% of mobile subscriptions.
5G also represents a step change from previous generations of mobile technology by enabling lower latency – the time it takes for signals to travel through the network. This gives it a wider range of applications by providing the responsive digital technology required to support innovations such as robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
5G will support the introduction of new goods and services, with higher data rates and lower latency expected to enable greater use of IoT devices. It will improve business efficiency in producing and delivering goods and services and enable scope for greater innovation and the development of new products. For example, faster download speeds and lower latency will make cloud computing more effective and allow for better collection and analysis of big data that can lead to more real-time decision making. A key for optimized marketing. It will also improve health and social outcomes. Wearable technology and IoT devices will help people better access health and education services in a timelier and personalized fashion – the gains from which will have a flow-on effect and will largely accrue to individuals.
Reflecting consumer preferences, the demand for 5G is here. This demand is translating into greater mobile data use, which is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years.
In our fast-paced, twitter-centric, 140-characters-or-less society and the rise of the digital economy, marketers today tend to fixate on the quick rewards of sales activation. The problem is that sales activation tactics only generate temporary lifts in revenue, not long-term incremental growth. Research has shown that balancing brand building with sales activation is a predictable and evidence-based formula that leads to sustainable growth.
Marketers see the efficiency of short-term activation and more and more are planning their budgets accordingly. But, in fact, what they actually should be doing is making digital activation work efficiently by supporting it with authentic, emotional brand building.
Share of voice matters, but what also matters is how you allocate share of voice between brand building and activation. According to research there tends to be an optimum effectiveness of 60% for brand building and 40% for activation in communications budgets. The ratio is not an absolute and may vary by category. For instance if brand building is easy in a category, you can dial down your brand spend. And if activation is easy in a category, you can dial down the activation spend.
For example, if you have a breakthrough new product that is a breeze to sell you can dial down the activation and tilt towards brand, with a split that’s more like 70/30. Additionally, in categories where there’s a great deal of online research – like, for example, holiday vacations, where people will do research on Google, Booking.com, etc. – activation is easy, so you can dial it down and tilt towards brand as well. The good news is that in a digital economy, there are efficiency gains to be made. There are areas in which you can cut the budget – and often it is the activation part of the budget you can dial down.
Efficiency gains are more important than ever with a possible recession on the horizon. As an article in the Harvard Business Review put it, “building and maintaining strong brands — ones that customers recognize and trust — remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.” It will be interesting to watch the retreat to brand-building and the pilgrimage to purpose as 2020 unfolds.
Brands on Facebook are being forced to re-evaluate their social media marketing strategies as their posts continue to reach fewer and fewer users. For a brand that’s looking to ensure that its posts get the most engagement possible, new data shows that Friday is the day when users are most likely to like, comment or share posts that come from brand pages. According to Adobe, Fridays earn about 15.7% of each week’s total post impressions, with Thursdays being the next most active day with a 14.5% share. Users also engage with brands more actively on Fridays. Posts have a 3.3% engagement rate on Fridays, compared to 3.2% on Thursdays and less on other days. Combined, these figures show that Fridays are a competitive time to post but also a time when users are more active on the social network.
This data doesn’t necessarily mean that brands should start spamming users’ feeds on Fridays. A flood of posts leads to greater competition to earn a spot in users’ News Feeds and a decline in organic reach. However, the data does show that users are on Facebook in big numbers on Fridays and they’re a bit more receptive to brand messages then. Smart content, particularly tailored toward weekend activities, can have an opportunity to score big.
The way we see and understand the world is becoming far more visual. We’re starting to think with images: looking around the physical world for ideal Instagram images, articulating emotions by calling upon icons and animations. Mobile devices are helping to drive the shift to a more visual vocabulary and aesthetic, which minimize or even supplant the need for text. Equipped with a dual-sided camera, touch screen and a keyboard that easily shifts over to emojis, mobile devices make it easier to rely on images than on words. Search is also getting more visual, thanks in part to image-recognition technology.
With more consumers communicating visually, a high degree of visual literacy will be imperative for brands. Brands will need to adopt a new visual lingo for communicating, mastering creative ways to express themselves and new ways to communicate with consumers. For instance, Starbucks encouraged its fans on WeChat to describe how they were feeling using an emoticon, responding with a song to match the mood. By the close of the campaign, Starbucks had tallied 62,000 fans and received an average of 22,000 messages per day, with the bulk of the interaction driven by
Attention is a precious commodity and consumers are willing to trade it for something in return. Consumers are starting to take this quid pro quo approach to advertising. In fact, 37% of adults who use their cell phone for Internet activities are reporting that they would view an ad on their mobile device if they were to receive something of value in exchange.
In response, there have been several new initiatives aimed at rewarding consumers for watching ads or interacting with brands over social media or in real life. For example, Urban Outfitters has launched an app called Urban Outfitters On You that rewards users for interacting and mentioning the brand on social platforms. Every time a user mentions Urban Outfitters on either Instagram or Twitter, they are given points that unlock perks such as information on when sales will happen, first access to new merchandise and concert tickets. Consumers are recognizing themselves as stakeholders in the “attention economy” and they will be increasingly looking for ways to leverage their commodity.
A recent Pew Research study found that a record 57 million Americans – over 18% of the U.S. population – live in multigenerational households. In fact, nearly one fourth of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 do so, and 37% are comprised of racial and ethnic minorities.
Multigenerational households are a prime example of two major trends in the U.S. consumer marketplace – the differing lifestage trajectories of Millennials and the steady growth of the multicultural population. As the Great Recession sent young adults back to their parents, decisions about marriage, employment and starting a family were put on hold. The end result is a generation with markedly different attitudes toward traditional lifestage events and an evolving, more expansive definition of family. Meanwhile, the growing multicultural U.S. population has continued to drive the long-term shift in multigenerational households since the 1980s, as this type of living arrangement is more commonplace among multicultural consumers. The confluence of these trends requires a different approach for marketers seeking to connect with today’s consumers. New households mean new needs, new desires and new values – all of which are likely to grow in importance as the nation moves toward a majority-minority population.