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Radically Better Results

Avatar of Rona Leslie

Back in October, I presented at the fantastic brightonSEO conference on The Power of Brand, sharing some of the insights from my previous blog on this topic. This article is a follow on from that piece, incorporating new research that offers guidance on how we can use digital for long-term brand building.

We already knew we could build brands using digital channels, of course, but now we have some shiny new data reinforcing this. For a brand geek like me, that’s really exciting. Then, I’m going to get onto the juicy part and share a new metric that allows us to measure brand impact in a relatively straightforward way (even more exciting!)

Where we left off 

To recap, The Power of Brand (part 1) explained that we need both sales activation marketing to drive revenue in the short term, and brand building marketing to secure profit and growth over the long term. Not only do all brands need both, but they need to find the balance that is most effective for their brand in their context.

On average, this looks like 60% brand building and 40% sales activation. However, depending on your sector, the ratio pendulum shifts:

In retail, it's more like 64% brand building, 36% sales activation.

In ecommerce, it’s more like 74% brand building, 26% sales activation.

In financial services, it's more like 80% brand building, 20% sales activation.

Recent findings 

Often it is assumed that digital is primarily a catalyst for sales activation marketing, rather than brand building. We have always disputed this as an oversimplification of how digital channels work. New research has proven the power of digital in brand building. This study, commissioned by Meta, and conducted by Neilsen, Nepa and GfK independently, has surfaced some fantastic insights worth noting.

The research analyses 3,500 campaigns spanning five sectors - CPG, retail, telco, tech and durables - across a multitude of media channels in five European countries between 2016 and 2021. In essence, the research shows the long-term growth impact of digital channels.

One key finding is that digital video - a medium we have been advocating for as the perfect supplementary tactic to support TV ads - offers a 50-50 split between short- and long-term ROI. The poignant conclusion that can be drawn from the study is whether activity builds brand or drives conversion, it’s not about the medium itself, but rather how you execute it.

It’s up to us as marketers to decide which type of outcome the activity will drive. The campaign, the format and the targeting should all be constructed with the end result in mind. Ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve? When we approach digital with this mindset, the possibilities are truly endless.

A new metric 

Next up, I want to talk about measuring brand impact and how you can determine the relative level of interest consumers have in your brand. It has traditionally been much harder than measuring sales activation, which is one of the reasons so much emphasis has been placed on tactics that we can attribute value to easily.

That said, there’s a newer metric worth considering that recent analysis would suggest is pretty accurate in indicating just how powerful your brand is. This metric is somewhere between brand salience and consideration.

It’s called share of search.

Since the birth of brand building in the 1950s, gathering data on brand building’s impact has often meant using consumer surveys. There are lots of challenges with this. For one, there’s no way to actually confirm data validity and in addition to that, the correlation between those types of tracking metrics and purchasing data is often disparate. Not to mention it is an expensive research method if you want to survey a decent sample size or how slow and laborious the process can be.

As marketers, we want to measure brand metrics based on behaviour rather than opinion. We also want to do it in a relatively easy and cost-effective manner. Les Binet’s metric built around share of searches may just be all of the above. Let’s look at what it is.

Share of searches is the total organic share of Google search queries. It can be worked out by dividing the total searches for your brand by the total number of brand searches within your category.

Analysis across three very different categories; automotive, energy and telco (specifically mobile phone devices) showed largely the same findings when it comes to share of search:

  1. Share of search is a leading indicator of marketshare. It is a long-term predictor that can project the trend up to 12 months ahead depending on the category you exist in.

  2. The time lag between the share of search and the share of market trend is important. Identifying how big (or long) that gap is in your category will act as an indicator of what’s to come, and when.

  3. When compared with other forecasting methods, share of search was the most accurate on both an annual and quarterly basis.  

Points to consider 

There are a few caveats to bear in mind. Firstly, bad PR will increase searches for a brand, but during this time, marketshare is likely to fall. This is a challenge with share of search data – so context must be applied here.

Also – the conversion rate from share of search to share of market is impacted by other factors such as price. Looking at the impact of one against the other can provide powerful insight into how to maintain healthy demand levels by potentially altering price. The share of search metric can be useful in understanding the issues your brand is experiencing, not only at the top of the funnel, but at the bottom too.

Share of search also indicates the impact of advertising campaigns. Across the three sectors studied, advertising campaigns impacted share of search in two ways. In the short term, they resulted in a surge of searches, as expected. But over the long term, even after the advertising campaign had finished, its existence has a cumulative impact on share of searches and therefore market share. This finding indicates that repeated bursts of advertising will have a positive long-term impact on top of funnel demand.

Most interestingly, this research was able to report on the percentage of searches that could be attributed to short-term and long-term effects. Perhaps not surprisingly, 40% of searches came from the short-term effects of advertising, while 60% of searches came from the long-term impact. There’s that 60:40 ratio again.

This ties into the previous research on brand vs activation and the validity of the 60:40 rule in that context. Once again, this new research reinforces a key point, that the best marketing campaigns need both - and they need balance.

This is the ultimate challenge for marketers today.

There’s lots of information in there, so here are a few key things to remember:

  • Almost any digital channel can build brand. It’s not the medium that will determine the outcome, but the execution of it. Ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve? 

  • Share of search is a powerful predictive metric of consumer interest in your brand. Start measuring it today.  

  • Consistent advertising has a positive impact on short and long-term effects. Use sales activation and brand building together to find balance.  

Share of search is a metric we are beginning to report on in our own technology platform, following the above research. If you’d like to understand what this metric looks like for your brand, or how you can utilise this measurement to forecast, plan and prepare for the future, we’d love to help with that.

You can hear Les Binet discussing share of searches in more detail here.

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