In the new digital world, is your brand well past its sell by date?


This October, Prophet, a global brand consultancy, released the results of its third Brand Relevant Index survey. They surveyed 13,500 U.S. consumers about more than 275 brands across 27 industries around four brand relevance measures: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation and distinctive inspiration.

The top ten most relevant brands are: Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Pinterest, Android, Spotify, Pixar, Disney and Samsung. The most obvious conclusion these results show is that all ten of these brands are “driven by technology.” As Scott Davis, Chief Growth Officer at Prophet said, “consumers live, work and play in a connected, digital world, so brands that deliver useful, easily accessible and enjoyable experiences are going to be the most relevant to their lives.”

By contrast some very big-name brands like Comcast, McDonalds, Ralph Lauren, Staples and United showed significant declines in the brand relevancy survey results.

Are you investing to drive your brand value and relevance?

A recent Gartner survey of 353 marketing executives in North America and the UK found that they had spent 22% of their marketing budgets on technology this year down from 27% last year. The report also found that marketing budgets have stalled in 2017 after three years of growth. As a percent of revenue, marketing budgets declined from 12.1% in 2016 to 11.3% this year. One third of CMOs surveyed said they expected their budgets to be flat or reduced again in 2018.

While many companies are investing in online and other digital tools, most have not developed a comprehensive omnichannel strategy to deliver great customer experiences over multiple customer touch points. Legacy marketing mindsets, just like legacy IT mindsets undermine the ability of companies to explore and experiment with all whole new range of digitally enabled customer engagement tools.

This speaks volumes to the necessity for CMOs and CIOs to breakdown the silos between their departments and work together to interconnect customer facing systems of engagement and systems of intelligence with the company’s internal systems of record. This triumvirate of systems should now become the top investment priority to drive brand value and relevance.

Millennials are re-defining brand loyalty

A recent study by Deloitte of over 1000 millennials in the US, UK, Italy and China found that 36% of them said they buy what they like regardless of brand. They are more willing to pay attention to brands that are more aligned with their personal values and the values of their social circle.

Brands that represent these new values should be:

  • Inclusive rather than exclusive
  • Individualized and personalized not generic
  • Self-expressive not self-absorbed or narcissistic
  • Democratic not elitist
  • Authentic and functional not pretentious and frivolous

The study identified a number of brands that have been successful in appealing to these new values including:

  • Interior Define – home furnishings
  • Knot Standard – men’s fashion
  • LVMH’s TAG Heuer – watches and jewelry
  • Shinola – watches
  • Canada Goose – men’s and women’s jackets

While millennials represent only one market segment, I think their attitudes, behaviors and actions are a strong future indicator of what brands have to do to deliver value and relevance in a digitally mediated customer engagement world.

How do you market your brand to an algorithm?

Adobe Systems recently announced the launch its global “Experience Business” cross-media campaign which will be solely implemented through a programmatic buying platform. The campaign highlights Adobe’s belief that artificial intelligence and machine learning will be fundamental to creating compelling customers experiences that help brands stand out in the new digital world. Participating brands include Princess Cruises, Franke Group, Pandora, UBS and T-Mobile.

Alex Amado, Adobe’s VP of Experience Marketing said “today’s most successful brands focus their energy on delivering a consistent, unified experience through many different channels. By using this all-programmatic approach, we can now effectively target customers by analyzing their behaviors and actions online to deliver a more relevant and personalized experience across every touchpoint.”

This now begs the question how do brands have a relationship with customers if they have outsourced multiple touch points to a series of digital algorithms and tools like software bots? While you can’t advertise directly to those digital intermediaries, you may be able to “persuade” the algorithm to give your brand more weight in the recommendations it generates. Either way, the old brand marketing rules are being turned upside down in the new digital world.

Getting Started: Some ideas on how you can build your brand’s value and relevance

    1. Use an outside-in approach not an inside-out approach. While it’s always valuable to document and understand your brand’s current state value and relevance, you can’t change its future state value and relevance by just making incremental tweaks to what you have now. The outside in approach begins by addressing three fundamental questions:
      1. What are the key moments of customer engagement that define and deliver your brand promise and value?
      2. Who or what system represents your brand promise and customer experience at that moment of engagement?
      3. How could you strategically intervene with a new system of engagement or system of intelligence to make that moment of engagement more compelling and enduring?
    2. Align your brand’s values with your customers’ values. A recent study by The Global Strategy Group found that Americans are 8.1% more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions and values and 8.4% less likely to purchase from a company that doesn’t. This clearly suggests that a strong alignment in views between your customer and your brand can directly influence desired purchase behaviors.
    3. Create “friction-free” customer experiences. To achieve friction-free customer experiences requires that organizations embrace an operating process of rapid iteration that constantly develops and tests new customer engagement ideas and tools. Companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Tesla are constantly providing product and software updates that give them real-time feedback and knowledge about their customer experience impact and value. This approach is becoming table stakes to delivering brand value and relevance in the new digital world.
    4. Harness the power of data analytics. Learning faster than your competition about what motivates consumer engagement/purchase behavior is a competitive imperative in the new digital world. To increase your brand’s value and relevance in this digitally mediated environment you will need to fully understand and leverage data analytics tools like A.I. and Machine Learning. Tech savvy individuals are leaving their customer experience footprints across multiple channels both physical and digital. Capturing and interpreting those footprints quickly and efficiently is best achieved by a close partnership between the pattern recognition skills of machine learning with the interpretive skills of insightful human brand stewards.

As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspectives on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me at