The Power of Brand to Influence Outcomes or Why Brands Will Always Rule Digital

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We all know power has shifted in the marketplace to consumers. Consumers have a more active and faster growing voice than ever before in the ultimate success of products and services. We wield this power through reviews, recommendations, social networks, message boards, blogs and most importantly our digital actions – quantified and delivered to marketers through analytics. Through necessity the analytics that best measure success are action and response oriented metrics. As marketers we use hard facts and quantifiable benefits to drive these numbers because that is what people respond to.

Some people feel these new dynamics (power to the people and optimization) around actions will kill brand marketing. Actually it’s not brand marketing that will be killed. The business models are what is dying. Dying because they don’t perform. Dying because they are not consumer driven. Dying because they are not “digital” business models — certainly not in this day and age. The irony is that despite the end of mass media, digital media had actually made it easier than ever to brand.

Brand is supposed to elicit emotions. Emotions are generated and conveyed based on our shared experience as humans. No medium allows us to share emotions as easily as instantly and to as many people as the web. The medium itself was created as a means to share. You don’t need to text message in order to understand that the digital domain is the place where relationships are most easily established and maintained. And what is a brand or branding if not a relationship?

In fact brand has always ruled digital. From email to affiliate to search marketing, brand has always resulted in high volume and big ROI. Without brand keywords most search campaigns would never hit their CPA goals. How about that the number one brand in the entire world was built in less than a decade through digital …without a penny spent on advertising!

Ironically, this consumer influence and relationship with brand has rarely been leveraged effectively by brand advertisers. The vast majority of these advertisers have focused their efforts on optimizing reach and traffic volumes – not actions. They have been optimizing spends and not CPA, CPL, RPV. The do not account for post click behavior or the real value delivered by the publisher or service. The do not focus on relevance. This is changing.

One reason for change is that Google will continue to woo brand dollars because they understand better than anyone the power of brand. I believe Google will be factoring in post click page factors into bid price before the end of the year. Currently, Google is factoring landing pages for position with contextual ads. It’s possible that could spread to position for Search Results soon as well. This is only good news to brand ROI.

As display or graphic ads become smarter and more engaging we’ll also see new definitions and success metrics emerge based on actions that incorporate much more confidence than view-through and much more value than CTR.

What strategies should brand marketers be thinking about? Probably the ones that scare them the most:

• Provide tools and access to people

• Allow people to easily socialize successful outcomes

• Enable actions to improve your results

I’m certain what will emerge lead by Google & Microsoft, who have no anchors to the past, will look nothing like brand or DR but a hybrid. Let’s just call it marketing. What will matter is how much is being spent and how much is being made. The only reason that doesn’t matter now to some marketers is because some performance can’t yet be measured and certain markets have not yet been created. Until then we live in silos. Mr. Brin, tear down that wall!

NOTE: John Battelle happened to have a post on branding today as well which I commented on. My comment:

Until the web there was little means to respond directly in other media forms. Certainly not comparable with the web. Still, DRTV and DR radio proved that you could not only build a a consumer and media brand (Nordic Track, QVC, et al) but that the ROI if executed well was astounding.

The ad immortals, the people who built advertising would roll over in their graves if they saw the kind of “branding” going on today. They understood the answer to your own question, “how to measure that magic that occurs between a consumer’s ears when they first see the image of a beautiful woman?” This sums up the disconnect with online brand. It’s not about measuring what occurs when people first see the image, it’s about measuring the outcome. After all, advertising exists to sell things.

The web can optimize how effective we are with our ad spends, our creative and our business. There is no more DR or Brand. There is just the answer to “how much did I spend” and “how much did I make.” Hallelujah for simplicity!

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