Start with the Brand Funnel
It’s interesting that most people start with where the media is and not where the consumer is in relative terms to where your brand is. Every brand should understand their Brand Funnel, at least measuring Awareness, Purchase and Loyalty rates. While sales, share, and profits are the obvious measurements of a brand, they are easy to see but are the end result. The funnel provides richer signals of the true health of the brand before they even show up in share reports and provides possible indicators of future performance. It’s the equivalent of blood pressure and cholesterol, which aren’t obvious on the surface but are signals of real health concerns that need to be addressed.
Almost like a fingerprint, every brand has a unique brand funnel. Your brand will have certain strength as well as leaks in the funnel. For instance, most Challenger Brands are either at the Indifferent or Like It stage, and they have a funnel that gets skinny quickly as you move down. While challenger brands can garner Awareness, they struggle to stay in consideration and even fall out even more at the purchase stage.
I encourage brands to analyze the leaks by looking at how the consumer might move along the brand going from Indifferent (unaware, noticed) to Like It (interested, bought) to Love It (satisfied, repeater) and Beloved Brand for Life (Fan, outspoken). At each stage, match up what the consumer feels about the brand as well as what the possible reasoning for why they might reject the brand.
Brand Leaders like Sony started to see cracks at the purchase stage as consumers started seeing just how much better Samsung when they were able to compare brands at the store level. In fact, people hung onto the Sony brand much longer than they should have. That’s actually a sign of the power that Beloved Brand status gives you.
The Consumer Buying System
Going forward, you now understand your brand funnel’s strength and your leaks that you need to close. Then start to Map out your Consumer Buying System and you’ll be able to see how the media plan begins to take shape. With most brands, you can see consumers becoming Aware and then Consider. The difference is Awareness can be related to how good your programs are, and consideration is related to how relevant or inspiring your brand concept is. Then consumers go into some type of Search to verify what they’ve now heard, whether that means asking friends, reading reviews or looking online. Usually, the Search effort is in direct relationship to either the importance or cost of the item. Some brands, especially CPG items would have a Trial component. Brands are now utilizing online to variations to simulate trial–whether looking at what a house or car might look like, customized to your needs. If trial is crucial to your brand, add that into the buying system. The Buying stage where the money is exchanged. At the last minute, something may change a consumer’s mind. They may shift based on last-minute information or influence or they may choose to stay with their usual brand. Promotion can move consumers at the last-minute as well, especially on brands where there is little differentiation. After the buying, there can be all types of dynamics, starting with Satisfaction or not meeting expectations. On experiential items, the purchase to satisfaction is even more complicated, especially when products and services are combined (hotels, restaurants, services). After the purchase, consumers quickly decide whether to buy again or reject it or even just buy it occasionally. It’s not easy to become a usual brand where you start to see the consumer become Loyal or even becoming a Fan of the brand.
Every good strategy starts with a focal point, and media strategies are no different. While there is a temptation to do it all and cover all part of the buying system, in reality, you never have the resources to do it all, so you have to put your money where you think you will have the biggest impact. Even with social media, which is considered “free“, it does still take a lot of effort, so picking the social media that makes the most sense for your brand is crucial to the return on effort. Try to match up to return on effort and return on investment by using some Prioritization Tool. Map out all the tactics as to how big they are and how easy they are. You’re trying to find the big and easy ideas–avoiding small and difficult. If they are big and hard, brainstorm ways to make it easier. If they are small and easy, brainstorm ways to make them bigger.
Linking the love curve to the consumer buying system
Brands that are stuck at the Indifferent stage should focus their resources against driving overall awareness to ensure the start of a strong funnel. But then, they need to convert that Awareness into Consideration utilizing announcement style advertising to highlight differences that can separate the brand from competitors. This is where the combination of mass media and digital media can help hold the hand of consumers as they move along the buying system. The brand can also begin utilizing search to their advantage with experts to re-enforce any brand differences or influential consumers with strong opinions
Brands at the Like It stage can find themselves stuck. They are successful enough to be a strong brand, but sometimes too complacent to do anything different. Instead of keep pounding the mass media out, these brands should use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to capture those consumers aggressively seeking out information as they move through the buying system. More and more, with Google or social media, it’s easy to seek out expertise or just opinions. Trip Advisor and Yelp are great forums where consumers look to what others have said and use that information to help consumers to make decisions. Also, consider media that can get as close to the point of sale as possible whether that’s in-store or online.
When moving from Like It to Love It, the brand usually moves from a product focus to a higher order and one that talks to the experiences. How media can help is to get consumers to wear the brand as a badge of honor or sharing their experiences. Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest can help consumers tell of their experience or even showcase the consumers love for the brand. Setting up a Listening Forum helps give consumers a voice in how their brand shows up. Brands that set up a conversation with their consumers such as Whole Foods who engage on Twitter or TD Bank who set up an ongoing dialogue with consumers.
Moving to the Beloved Brand stage requires a bit of magic. Find a mechanism to surprise and delight the consumers that already love you, create an exclusivity club so consumers can feel they are part of the brand at the highest levels. The effort in both of these areas can help your most loyal consumers to influence others into using the brand. At the Beloved stage, you need to continually improve to avoid going back down the love curve, and that means managing every part of the consumer buying system. Close leaks before the consumer even know they are leaks.
A generation ago, brands had firm control over the message and the media, helping to manage their buying system by themselves. However, with social media, managing the brand becomes even more complicated because consumers are a medium themselves. While word of mouth has always been there, it’s normally been Mother to Daughter, Father to Son or friend to friend. Now we rely on complete strangers to make our decisions. It’s a bit like playing zone defense instead of man-to-man defense–it can feel a bit looser for Brand Leaders to manage. But in reality, it makes it even more important to know and articulate your positioning, messaging and media choices that make sense. If you engage to listen to your consumers, you have to act on their input and advice. Otherwise, they’ll stop being engaged.
Before seeing a media plan, I’d encourage you to understand where your brand sits on the Brand Love Curve, dig into your Brand Funnel using it to see strengths and to map out the leaks. Take that knowledge into the Consumer Buying System so that you are choosing the media options that will help drive stronger growth for your brand. The media choices are all about focus and return on resources–both dollars and effort. Find the focal point that enables your brand to find more growth.
Use your Media Strategy to force choices to ensure Return and Growth for your brand.
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