In an article that I recently came across entitled “Leading Brand Trends For 2014” by Robert Passikoff, he points out that the number 14 is associated with forward movement, new methods of experience, opportunity, and personal engagement, a good omen as to the course the world of consumer outreach and brand marketing will follow next year. A company’s unique brand will become a significant factor in making the choice between one company and another.
For marketers and brand managers who want to stay ahead of that trajectory, analysis and insights from Brand Keys’ validated and predictive loyalty and engagement metrics, collected from over 100,000 consumers this year, identify 14 critical trends that will become brand realities in 2014:
1. Consumers Expect More: Over the past five years consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations, will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.
For lenders that means offering a better process that is more transparent. Many borrowers want to self-serve these days, so refine your online presence Mr. Lender. For technology vendors, you have go beyond the buzz. Don’t jut incorporate the latest buzzwords into your sales presentation, instead give lenders clear return on investment numbers.
2. Attention Must Be Paid to Brands: With increased expectations will come a greater sense of product and service commoditization. You may be known, but you need to be known for something meaningful and important to consumers.
A mortgage is a mortgage, right? Yes and no. The differentiator is the customer experience and the service level offered to the borrower when they get that mortgage. Technology vendors should take this same advice: Lenders are expecting more and you have to deliver the goods long after the sale is closed.
3. Category is King: Brands will stop trading away category-specificity for cross-category generalities in how they target, strategize, and execute content. To engage smarter, high-expectation consumers, brand wills need to be smarter about specific category values they can leverage and own.
This is an important point. Borrowers looking for a loan and lenders looking for technology are becoming smarter and smarter. Gone are the days that you can get a deal by flashing the latest designer loan product or sexy technology feature.
4. Brands Will Get Emotional: Values that drive the decision process to select one brand versus another has become more emotionally-driven. In most categories the rational aspects are price-of-entry. Successful brands will need to identify what emotional values exist in the category in which they compete, and utilize them as a foundation for meaningful differentiation.
Look at the Quicken Loans ads, for example. They create a sense of caring. The borrower leaves feeling like Quicken is going to do right by them. Similarly, lenders need to feel like their technology vendors are on their side, as well.
5. Real Brand “Engagement” Defined: For too long engagement has been associated with consumer attention levels. Successful marketers will link “engagement” to how efforts increase how well the brand is perceived versus the Category Ideal, and a metric that correlates highly with loyalty, sales, profitability, and lifetime value.
6. Targeting Becomes Personal: With consumers craving, and expecting, more, and more customized and personalized products, services and experiences, brands that better respond to real consumer expectations, will find consumers engaging with brands that are able to personalize messaging and outreach.
It’s not enough to just offer the best price as a lender, you have to offer the best service, too. You have to know you’re client. Lenders have to understand the issues of their borrowers and technology vendors have to have their pulse on what lenders need these days to conduct business.
7. Digital Done Right: With digital diversification getting bigger, and more channels appearing each quarter, brands are going to shift their question from “should I be here?” to “what should I do now that I am here?” Success will be linked not to outreach alone, but to how well the brand can differentiate itself and the levels of emotional engagement it can create.
8. Content Is King, Too: Content marketing will become a specialty unto itself and tools like the Digital Platform GPS will optimize placement and help brands distinguish the difference between paid, owned, and earned media. This will become more important when it comes to dealing with issues related to contextual relevance and strategically navigating brands in digital space.
You can’t tell your prospect what you think they want to hear, you have to tell them what they need to hear in a way that they are able to digest it. Sometimes that means sending a Tweet or a LinkedIn update and in other cases that means picking up the phone and calling them.
9. Mobile Optimized: In 2011 Brand Keys trends identified that mobile would move mainstream, and it has. For 2014 brands will need to adapt strategies and delivery mechanisms, content and flow of communications to match increased consumer multi-tasking and multi-screen behavior.
10. Fewer Tedious Texts: Consumers, having become more visually literate, will move from text outreach to more image-based connections. Visual content will become more important in creating successful viral marketing campaigns, with brands becoming more attentive to image-sharing initiatives and platforms.
Simply put, don’t harass people. Nobody wants to be stalked. Time your messaging and make sure that its both appropriate and targeted to the situation at hand.
11. Micro Becomes Mainstream: Micro videos will continue to rise in popularity and use. Metrics will move away from number of views and toward real brand engagement (see Trend #5). Watch for more :6 and :12 videos to accommodate different digital delivery platforms and increasingly shorter consumer attention spans.
12. Integration Intensification: Brand marketing and digital budgets will fuse as teams work jointly and cross-silo. Multi-platform traditional and digital models will require social media integration into all marketing efforts, with responsibilities extended to customer experience, design, sales, and product development.
The mortgage industry is getting better when it comes to using social media, but more thought needs to be paid to this content avenue. It’s not enough to just have a presence on Twitter or Facebook, you have to use that presence to strategically grow your business.
13. Data Deceleration: Data aggregations for traditional and digital will become more integrated and streamlined, allowing brands to better separate the “wheat from the chaff.” Big Data will actually get smaller and more compact. And more useful.
14. The Funnel Flattens: What used to be a “purchase funnel,” that became a “path-to-purchase,” will become a “multi-path-to-purchase” and will become extraordinarily category specific. Content and value communication with the right platforms in the right way will become the only way to create emotional engagement — and profitability — with brands.
I know that it can be a lot to take in, but your brand matters more and more these days. It’s said that a new year provides marketers and brands a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings. But it’s also said, if you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old. These 14 new trends provide brands with the opportunity to break habits and embrace new methods of brand engagement, new business models, new technologies, and new and profitable opportunities. Happy 2014!
About The Author
Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.