Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research Consulting blog.
Google recently announced a partnership with comScore to better measure digital ad effects in real time.
According to USA Today, "The combination will let advertisers and publishers track online ads in near real time. ... The addition of vCE [Validated Campaign Essentials] will also help Google share more data with advertisers about what types of people see their ads and what their interests are."
What underlies this is yet another way of trying to disprove the belief that digital is not a brand-building medium. Frankly, I never quite understood the debate. Of course, we remember great commercials even from 40 years ago and can't recall a great display ad to save our lives. However, that does not equate to digital not being a branding medium.
First, a counter argument and then evidence.
The counter-argument: display advertising and paid search often leads to visiting a brand website or a shopping comparison/offers site. Certainly these sites contain brand messaging. Furthermore, if digital advertising leads to increased purchase, consumers are increasing experiences with brands via usage. Ultimately product usage, reinforced by packaging communications, is the most powerful form of creating brand meaning — consumers decide in their minds what the brand means to them.
For evidence, an AOL study I participated in with InsightsNow shows that half or more of internet users "digitally window shop" daily. Moreover, those who do are 40 percent more likely to know what brand they will buy before they shop vs. those who browse online less than once a month. That is quite a lift in the importance of brands at driving shopping outcomes, and it all comes from a digital, always-on lifestyle.
Why might this be? My inference is that users are absorbing tremendous brand knowledge even if browsing without a specific shopping purpose in mind and motivated by killing time, feeding curiosity, and finding it fun.
The marketing implications are clear. Users decide if, when, and how they will seek out information online. Brands need to be always available and prominent by showing up on the first page of search results for important key words and having a strong social media presence. Websites must offer compelling content that's relevant and aligned to the lifestyle attributes sought with the brand. Brands need to take advantage of precision targeting where it is now possible to predict if a given user is shopping and target a paid ad impression.
The 30-second TV commercial isn't unimportant, but without a strong digital presence, it will increasingly make the sound of one hand clapping.
What grade would you place on marketers' use of digital as a brand-building medium?