Let there be love: Five marketing matches guaranteed to boost consumer affection for brands
As Valentine's Day looms, bringing with it the last-minute present-buying panic, the eye-watering cost of red roses and a mad scramble to secure a table at this year's most popular restaurant, it can be hard to know what will lead to romance or result in rejection.
Now, sadly I can't guarantee that your efforts on February 14 will set your loved-one's heart aflutter, but when it comes to encouraging consumers to love a brand or a product, then I'm happy to play Cupid and find some matches made in heaven.
First of all, forget the doomsday scenario set out above – building brand love does not need to be stressful or excessively expensive, and don't worry about following the crowd. Instead, we need a clear strategy, cost-effective execution and a personalised approach to stand out from the competition.
Using data from our recent Brand Love Index, which surveyed more than 150,000 consumers from 13 countries, we've been able to highlight five partnerships that make people starry-eyed about their favourite brands, and pinpoint some of the strategies that can help marketers achieve them.
Match #1 - AR and VR: Uniting to outperform and over-deliver
Just like nobody wants the same box of chocolates or aftershave every Valentine's day, consumers are not going to fall head over heels for a brand if they use the same old tried and tested campaigns or activations.
Indeed, a brand's ability to "exceed needs" by offering something unique, or providing a service or product that is head and shoulders above the rest – was by far and away the strongest driver of brand love in our survey, standing at 32% for the UK.
So, it goes without saying that the marketing strategy needs to follow suit. There is no need to rely on emotion or gimmicks, instead focus on over-delivering by providing useful information, highly-engaging content, crystal-clear navigation and as many personalised touch-points as possible, especially for mobile.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, when deployed effectively, are two fantastic ways to achieve this. Recent campaigns from IKEA and H&M have allowed consumers explore products through AR, VR and 360-degree video. Not only do these have the wow factor, they also deliver real benefits for the consumer.
IKEA AR, for example, is great for consumers because they can see how their products would look in their home, while also receiving all the product information. And for marketers, it has the added bonus of providing a whole new stream of consumer insights and analytics.
Match #2 – Story-telling and social media: Together brands can take a stand
While most successful couples share similar values, consumers increasingly expect the same from their most treasured brands. We found that this was especially the case in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the UK where people want to be seen using brands that share their values, such as equality and diversity.
But just like on a first date, it's better to steer away from politics, with seven-out-of ten consumers globally believing that brands should not go hand-in-hand with a political party.
In our ever-evolving digital landscape, marketers now have a wealth of opportunities to move beyond plugging products and instead craft a compelling narrative about a brand's ethos, beliefs and purpose.
Branded content on high-quality platforms provides the opportunity to showcase a brand's values, while also providing entertaining and informative copy, video and calls to action, all of which can be amplified in a coherent campaign across its social media channels.
But remember to ensure content is placed on the sites that are respected and respectable, because nothing ruins a relationships more than a breakdown of trust.
Match #3 – Data and communities: Use analytics to create belonging
Staying with the all-important theme of trust, we found that consumers back the brands they feel truly understand them. 21% of brand love in the UK was generated by trust, the second highest driver of brand love in the UK.
This means marketers need to use multiple data sources to get the lowdown on their consumers to create tailored and timely connections. This, in turn, will lead to consumers being more willing to engage and share their personal information, needs and wants.
The information garnered can then be used to build flourishing online communities, especially on mobile apps, where marketers can create messaging, offers and experiences, all on a personalised basis.
There is now an abundance of data available to marketers, including mobile usage, purchase data, geolocation and ad performance statistics, all of which can be expertly mined to help create successful bespoke content and advertising.
Match #4 – Experiential marketing and digital surprises: Spice things up on and offline
In the real world, all relationships go through stale patches, but that never needs to be the case between brands and consumers where there is always an opportunity to surprise and set new trends.
We found that 17% of a brand's love is driven by its ability to set trends, and while in some markets this was especially true for millennials, in the UK this was the case for both the young and young at heart.
Consumers are willing to fall for - and forgive - brands that innovate in order to elevate experiences, and this applies equally to companies with a rich heritage as well as the hottest startups.
Disney Resorts, for example, might be 50 years old, but it still topped consumers' list of brands that set trends by staying true to Walt's innovative vision and passion for creativity.
Key to success in this area is combining offline excitement through experiential marketing instead of traditional display advertising, and bumping up reach and engagement online by extending activities through live video, custom-made content and our number one darlings, AR and VR.
Static banner ads, however, are now moving firmly out of fashion and look set to be left on the shelf.
Match #5 Native advertising and targeted positioning: The secret to staying on the same wavelength
Just as our relationship needs change over time, it is exactly the same when it comes to the chemistry between brands and consumers.
This means marketers need to know what there consumers want and how they want to communicated to at different stages of their life.
So, different tactics are required, even within the same campaign and platform. Native advertising is fantastic for this because it lets brands tailor the message depending on who is seeing them and where.
Take native video as a prime example; brands which place informative and engaging videos alongside the content their consumers are already enjoying benefit from a 50% uptake in brand favourability and a 28% hike in purchase intent.
And by effectively utilising the data opportunities highlighted in our third match, marketers can be sure their campaigns are delivered where they will have maximum impact.
As you can see, there are now multiple marketing strategies to boost the drivers of brand love, but they all have one thing in common; they have the ability to exceed the expectations of the individual receiving them. Here's hoping your Valentine's Day efforts had the same results!
To read more about how to build brand love,