Leverage digital to accelerate growth of brand equity and value
Getting it right requires integrated
strategy, research, and measurement
By Doreen Wang
Global Head of BrandZ™
Kantar Millward Brown
Brand is the most powerful intangible asset. Understanding a brand’s worth to the business in financial terms, therefore, is an essential part of managing, protecting and measuring it. Identifying exactly how the brand contributes to revenues means it can be strengthened and improved to keep the business relevant and competitive. Kantar Millward Brown research shows that more than 30 percent of shareholder value is driven by brands.
A valuable brand helps a business command a price premium, survive a crisis, and grow faster than its competitors. A measurement of the strongest brands from the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 as a “stock portfolio” over the last 12 years shows their share price has risen over three-and-a-half times more than the Modern Index Strategy Indexes (MSCI) World Index, and two-thirds more than the S&P 500.
Some 60 percent of the financial value of a brand is made up of its equity—in other words, the consumer’s predisposition to select it. Strong earnings and financial management by the parent company are key, of course, but the opinions of the people who buy the brand are the most important driver of value.
New and emerging digital technologies, channels and formats offer opportunities to boost equity. Digital channels have a huge role to play in strengthening engagement by making a brand more present and active in consumers’ lives. Fully leveraged, digital channels can be used to develop and amplify brand attributes through a consistent, relevant, and compelling 360-degree customer experience. This will create the associations and perceptions in consumers’ minds that predispose them to choose a brand. The opportunity is enormous, but it must be pursued correctly.
Integrate all strategies
Multiple digital touchpoints and interactions offer opportunities to capture data on how consumers interact with and perceive the brand. This allows marketing activities to be optimized at exactly the right points in the customer journey to build relationships in the short term, and loyalty for the long term. Immediate feedback can be used to personalize the customer experience and communications.
Consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels, and every interaction should reflect the brand’s values and work towards a collective purpose. First, the digital strategy needs to be aligned across all channels. This may sound obvious, but nearly one-third of marketers aren’t setting integrated digital strategies across desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and social platforms (Kantar Millward Brown’s Getting Digital Right survey, 2016).
Digital channels must also be aligned with traditional channels, so brand experiences can be connected. Most importantly, everything must be linked to the brand proposition. The brand, marketing and digital strategies also need to interlock with the overall business strategy, so all activities feed a core set of objectives and serve the overarching vision. Data from multiple sources can be combined to reveal rich insights into consumers’ behavior and preferences.
Another challenge created by the proliferation of digital channels is building a brand experience that is completely consistent across all touchpoints. If data is not joined up, or one part of the experience “jars” with the rest—for instance, great advertising drives customers to the website, but the items appearing in the ad are not in stock—this can have a negative impact on perceptions and, therefore, brand value.
Improve research and measurement
There’s a growing need for quality insight to inform strategic brand management decisions—both around the role each digital channel plays in achieving objectives, and on consumer behavior, which is constantly shifting. Only 45 percent of marketers feel confident their organization understands the consumer journey (Getting Digital Right), indicating that more than half of businesses are not reaching and influencing people at the right time, in the right way, with the right content.
According to Getting Digital Right, 59 percent of marketers are still not confident in their use of big data. All the information a brand needs to grow its value is already available; it is the marketing and brand departments’ responsibility to challenge their agency and media partners to help them derive actionable insights.
Measuring the ROI of digital marketing and branding activities along the customer journey against KPIs is also essential, as is evaluation of the effectiveness of advertising, to link brand activity directly to sales.
Don’t treat digital like a “free ride”
There is a general misperception that digital channels are “free”—and some businesses have cut their marketing and branding budgets accordingly. Investment is still necessary to establish brand equity in the digital space.
A brand proposition that consumers see as distinctive and unique has the potential to drive value, but this proposition needs to be amplified with advertising and marketing. Those brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100 that have both a strong proposition and excellent advertising—which include IBM, FedEx, Ikea, Nike, BMW, Colgate, Google, Samsung, Chanel, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola—have grown their value three times faster in the last decade than those with a strong proposition but weaker advertising.
Brands are valuable, and they drive revenues. Business should be unafraid to embrace digital formats to build their brands’ presence and engage consumers. By being the first to try something new, and investing to keep up with dramatic developments in technology, companies can increase the contribution the brand makes to the bottom line. Most of all, the digital strategy should not be considered simply as a roadmap for leveraging digital formats. Digital is a way of life for consumers, and it should be the same for the businesses that serve them.
with digital strategy
It’s also imperative that the security strategy is integrated with the digital strategy. For the sake of effective data protection and information management, security controls need to evolve as the business adopts new technologies and ways of working, and as customer journeys develop. As a business becomes more customer centric, data should be sufficiently protected at every point it is collected, shared, used and stored. Silos are being broken down, systems and databases are being linked up, and data is flowing through cloud-based applications and mobile devices. Loss of confidential customer details at any weak point in a business’s infrastructure or processes can damage a brand’s reputation overnight to an extent that may never be completely repaired. The transparency of digital business makes it easy for a customer to see if a brand has misused its data or not followed the rules. There is no hiding place.