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How David Beats Goliath in the Battle of Brand Perception

  • Content: Article
  • Date: 24 February 2021

Part of the Challenger Brands Summit, a fully reimagined Brandweek virtual experience, Learn from the most agile and innovative brand marketers as they share their stories of successes and challenges in pivoting strategies and business models to adapt to this new era of disruption.

Nimble companies, those that do not carry the baggage of legacy marketing theories and processes, are well-equipped to capture consumer trust in today’s market. By leveraging real-time data to assess how much their brand matters, these brands can adjust marketing spends more effectively than slower competitors. These are human-centric marketers: the Davids.

Concurrent with the pandemic, there’s been a renewed call to racial equity. Companies are engaging in the conversation to stay present and morally driven in the minds of their consumers. Unfortunately, some might not be engaging in earnest, believing that a reactive response will preserve growth. These are the Goliaths.

In the handling of Covid-19 and racial justice efforts, successful Davids have discovered what their Goliath counterparts have not: Consumers do not need a shoulder to cry on. People need champions in competency, brands that show progress in the face of adversity—that know it’s not about how you market at people but how you matter to people.

Once David, now Goliath

Consider the rise of Procter & Gamble. Before the 1930s, P&G was a relatively known brand, so it invested heavily in marketing.

Recognizing the need for stress relief during the Great Depression, it took to the airwaves, sponsoring the first radio serial dramas known as radio operas. As radio’s popularity later gave way to television, P&G converted the radio opera to the TV soap operas we know today. Soaps aired in the mid-afternoon before children returned from school, offering a source of entertainment and rewarding those maintaining the home.

In both radio and television pursuits, Procter & Gamble identified a real customer need (an enjoyable “me moment”) and executed its delivery in dynamic fashion. P&G wasn’t stuck in category-specific thinking and engaged with modern mediums. It focused on mattering to—instead of marketing at—people cleaning the home.

"Smart marketers read the needs of the day. ...Awareness is like gasoline. You might need it to finish a race, but it won’t predict if you are going to win. For that, you need more and faster information on how your brand matters to us all.." - Joah Santos, CMO, BERA

What makes a David?

Today we face an entirely different set of issues than Procter & Gamble; entertainment as a distraction from life’s problems won’t cut it.

In fact, companies showcasing competency over empathy during the pandemic have experienced positive financial impact. Chipotle was quick to offer free delivery, raise salaries and give burritos to front-line workers. Competence scores increased and in turn, Chipotle saw the largest increase in brand meaningfulness and uniqueness in its category to core millennial targets. This is why revenue increase was more than double that of its competition.

On a technical level, two features create a David. First, functional, emotional and social benefits are aligned such that a consumer’s brand experience resonates with the company’s purpose. Second, the messaging is precise and responsive, with benefits conveyed consistently across product, price, promotion, place and people.

These features are not exclusive to an industry or category. If someone is looking for a small reward, they could turn to Snickers or TikTok, though we would never traditionally compare them. When one brand wins, countless other unrelated brands lose. So marketers must look beyond their backyard and benchmark themselves against a large spectrum of brands.

Take Netflix, for example. Its mission was to “entertain the world,” not only challenging video rental, but TV, games and social media, thereby scaling up its potential consumer base. Conversely, Kodak fell for product-level thinking and developed quality film for photography enthusiasts. The brand failed to see that consumers loved it for its speed and ease, not its film quality. Ironically, this hurt the company even more when enthusiasts switched to digital photography.

Smart marketers read the needs of the day. They do not wait for quarterly or annual reports on brand perception to measure performance. This is how you diagnose competency (not empathy) as a priority during Covid-19. And so long as Goliaths remain loyal to outdated metrics that overemphasize awareness, Davids can exploit newer, forward-looking metrics that forecast growth. Awareness is like gasoline. You might need it to finish a race, but it won’t predict if you are going to win. For that, you need more and faster information on how your brand matters to us all.

- Joah Santos is the Chief Marketing Officer at BERA - Predictive Brand Tech

Read the full ADWEEK article about BERA.