BrainTrust Query: Marketers Need to Start Thinking of Their Brands As Media
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of an article from the Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research blog.
In the old days there was only one kind of audience — the ones that media created. TV shows had ratings, magazines and newspapers had subscribers and radio shows had listeners. Advertisers hopped on board by buying advertising on these shows and print vehicles. Of course, these audiences are still significant but now there is a new type of audience in a digital and social age — one accumulated by the brand itself.
Brand Coca-Cola has an audience on Facebook (53 million fans) that is nearly triple the size of the top-rated TV show. Starbucks has 25 million more fans on Facebook than Dunkin’ Donuts, meaning four times as many people on Facebook will see every Starbucks update vs. every Dunkin’ Donuts update.
And the size of the brand audience can extend well beyond Facebook as now someone can follow a brand on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, subscribe to a Youtube channel that is brand-sponsored, and download a branded app into their smartphone and tablet. Consumers can also sign up for brand e-mails and regularly visit websites.
Are marketers appealing to their new audiences correctly?
Not really. Let’s start with a basic fact. The percent of fans who actually visit a Facebook page in a given month for a brand they have liked is usually well below one percent. Why is the visitation rate so low? I’d guess there are three reasons: low entertainment value; and not enough valuable offers and updates in the newsfeed that are not designed to encourage fans to go back to the page. Brands have moved into the entertainment business but have not done a good job on execution.
Research and insights departments can help to drive this transformation in thinking but measurement concepts are still lagging behind. I advise my clients to create a KPI (key performance indicator) for "brand audience" that summates audiences across social and owned media. A marketer should want that number to go up, up, up over time and outperform competitors. Other metrics I advise my clients to create relate to a clearly specified way of tracking paid, owned and earned media. Especially, with earned media, there is huge variability in practice and I tell my clients they need to own the calculation so it is repeatable and therefore a basis for learning.
"Brand as media" is a sea change but marketers are still trying to figure this out. You no longer compete just on features and functional benefits. Brands are now competing for lifestyle, entertainment, and a sense of belonging to build their audiences. If you do it right you get a brand like Starbucks with its 33 million Facebook fans.
Do you find it helpful to view brands as “media”? What transformative steps may brands have to take to deliver compelling entertainment and engagement to their Facebook fans and other social followers?