The Science and Art of Brand Growth
Brands have stopped growing. Brand equity, the most valuable business asset, is no longer wielding top line results. More than half the 2016 Fortune 500 had declining revenues, according to ANA CEO Bob Liodice.
But at the recent ANA Brand Masters Conference (#ANABrand), marketers of all kinds challenged this perception of flagging brand health. Large legacy brands like Dr. Pepper, Jim Beam and GSK, along with newcomers Ancestry and Peloton all revealed their approach to brand growth and resulting success.
There was consensus among all of these brands that to grow, innovation must occur both in the way insights inform great creative, and how insights drive better segmentation, targeting and execution.
Most of the conference speakers spoke about the “art and science” of marketing, but perhaps “science and art” is the more apt order of things. Today, brand growth relies on marketing that weds the science of measurement and insights with informed creative that more artfully resonates with customers. Rebecca Messina, CMO of Beam Suntory, a classically-trained brand manager formerly at Coca-Cola, said it best: in order to grow again, we need to renew our vows as marketers, referring to these fundamentals.
Science That Informs and Predicts
The science today is two-part: informing meaningful customer insights that result in great creative, and utilizing those insights to better execute the segmentation, targeting and experiential components of the campaign.
Brands like those at the ANA are leveraging customer feedback insights, attitudinal surveys, purchase data and consumption patterns to inform the big creative idea. Today the art reflects a greater emotional and authentic connection to the customer because of this analytical rigor.
In addition to the science inspiring the creative, it also informs campaign execution. Brands now have the ability to know their customers and prospects so well that they can engage with the right person at the right time with the right creative magic.
Knowing how to use vast data sets about customers and consumers to better segment, target and engage is key. From behavioral and intent signals to media consumption trends, brands like Beam are bringing data science and programmatic competency in house to exploit that customer data and drive competitive advantage. These brands are well on their way to becoming big data experts, connecting and mining vast customer attributes in order to respond to, and also anticipate, customer needs.
This science is being used to craft detailed customer journey models AND measure at the individual person level, which enables brands to do mass customization in real time and, increasingly, to actually predict behavior and response.
Art That Brings Insights to Life
The art, in its simplest form, is manifest through the creative. But what defines great creative is the ability to define and bring to life the key consumer insight.
We heard from brands at the ANA about how they derive Big Ideas from customer insights. Messina discovered such an insight when researching how women prefer to be introduced to a new alcoholic beverage. Beam found that women would rather discuss such matters with other women, who better understand their tastes and experiences than men. Thus was born creative featuring Mila Kunis encouraging another woman at the bar to drink Jim Beam bourbon.
Andrew Springate, CMO of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, bucked declining soft drink category trends for his Dr. Pepper brand, achieving 1.3% growth vs an industry average of negative 0.8%. His strategy? Being sweet. Literally. His team found that customers believed Dr. Pepper to be the sweetest of the competitive set, and an indulgent treat, leading to a series of funny TV ads for Diet Dr. Pepper featuring a character called "Lil Sweet," who shows up to save the day.
The common theme among conference speakers who have returned to the art of creative marketing is that success and differentiation lies in using consumer insights to inform marketing efforts in order to win in today’s landscape of hyper-fragmented attention and proliferating channels.
The ANA provided a stage for brands to share stories about their success in making customer obsession a bottom-line enhancing priority. Beam’s Messina espoused winning on objective measures AND subjective measures. To do this in an effective, brand-equity building way, brands need to make creative more authentic by grounding it in meaningful insights and by executing against those insights in an engaging, relevant way.