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Beyond the numbers: Building brands online is much more than clicks and views

Roberto Rossi

Head of Media & Digital

Kantar Millward Brown


There is one thing about digital that all marketers really love: everything can be measured. You can count how many times a specific piece of content is clicked on, what portion of your video is viewed, or for how long a certain part of a banner display is visible on the screen. This unprecedented opportunity has led to new media buying models based on performance measured rather than impressions delivered. Today, you can plan your campaign and pay only for the exact number of times your video is viewed or your banner is clicked.

That sounds great! And indeed it is if the goal of your campaign is to trigger a particular behavior at the same time the advertising is displayed - “download the coupon”, “register for a test drive”, “put the item in your basket”, “visit our website”, etc. - yet this is not always the case. Since the early stage of marketing history – and still today – advertising plays a key role in shaping people’s perceptions and opinions about a brand to generate a positive predisposition that will last until the moment of purchase – whenever that happens. And that is true across platforms and media, online as well as offline.

In the lives of today’s connected consumer, digital is an integral part of people’s daily routine, with no clear distinction between online and offline. It is not about technology, it is all about engaging with your audience and delivering the intended impressions through the most appropriate channel in the most appropriate way. Advertising is a means of building brand value. And brand-building advertising needs more than clicks and views to prove it is effective at delivering the intended goal.

Click and views are not a substitute for brand-building performance. Advertising’s ability to impact on future shopping behavior and brand choice should be measured with different metrics. Technology has changed the way (and speed with which) people interact with brands, yet the motivations behind consumers’ choices have not changed so fast. People still want to buy brands that offer something meaningful and different. Successful campaigns are those that are able to keep the brand salient in consumers’ minds and create associations that predispose people to choose the brand – both now and in the future.

In this context, digital offers new opportunities to connect with consumers. It has multiplied the channels through which we can access our audiences, offering the opportunity to influence consumers in several places and at different moments across their decision-making process. Nonetheless, marketers must be conscious of the negative impact that bad practices in digital advertising can have on their target audience. Intrusive advertising and extremely high frequency of exposure driven by a poorly managed retargeting program can lead to the feeling of being stalked. That leads to people installing ad-blocking software and apps.

Today, consumers want to be in control of their digital experience and be respected by marketers. People are more likely to engage with formats that offer something in return – like access to premium content or extra “life” in a mobile game. Give consumers the opportunity to choose whether they watch or skip, or turn the interruption into something delightful and relevant to them.

In a context where marketing is highly fragmented and - especially in Italy - TV still plays a key role in reaching large audiences, digital must earn its place in the media mix of brand-building campaigns. It must gain consumers’ attention and initiate conversations on themes that matter to them.

Marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of the digital and social ecosystem, and use their brands’ properties – such as their Facebook page or Twitter account – to start a conversation or launch an event around a relevant topic designed to inspire their audience and initiate a debate people will join and share with others. Traditional media and paid advertising activities are then used both to increase coverage and ensure conversations are leading in the intended directions.

This could be a powerful approach as long as the values portrayed in the campaign are effectively and concretely shared by the brand. Mellin’s campaign on “Family and adoption” and Indesit’s “#DoItTogether” campaigns fostering gender equality are just a couple of recent examples.

Even for this kind of campaign, shares, likes, clicks, and all other behavioral metrics are available to tell part of the success of the story, yet the real and most relevant measure of campaign success in building brand value and equity has to be found in how it made people perceive the brand as meaningfully different and actively salient in consumers’ minds. Which is somewhere beyond clicks and views, hidden in their feelings and emotions.