The average millennial spends 18 hours a day connected to some form of media. All this connectivity means that we’re looking at an expanding advertising world like never before. As we settle in to consume hours of media each day, there’s even more opportunities for brands to push their content into our lives. But in a world where people are smarter than ever before about the content they consume, is bombarding people with branded messages at every corner the right thing to do?
In 2015 the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that the advertising industry was losing $8.2 billion dollars a year. Despite all the new ways to push their content, advertisers are struggling to get through to consumers. Every week 130,000 articles are posted to LinkedIn and every minute over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Digital media is blunting the power of advertising. The more we’re exposed to it, the more we become numb to it.
Ever since people started rebelling against things like Coca-Cola sponsoring school events in the 90s, we’ve seen a decrease in the amount of explicit advertising. As people have rejected overt advertising, covert advertising has grown.
Native advertising is a type of paid media where the advert hides its commercial nature and tries to blend in with whatever publication it happens to be placed in, so readers can’t tell the difference between the editorial content and the adverts. The aim of this is to make brands seem reliable, familiar and authentic. And this is only set to increase: by 2018 spending on native advertising in the US is predicted to reach $21 billion.
However, no matter how native advertising is disguised and dressed up, it’s not the way forward. The idea of this technique appears to be about confusing people and blurring the lines between journalistic material and advertising.
People want authenticity. But branding is a way for people to communicate, it’s a dialogue between consumers and companies – and because of this it will never disappear. Hopefully the focus will change though, away from products to high quality experiences.
This is happening when 50% of the population is now connected to the internet. We live in a world where everyone is linked. While branding is typically based on the idea of a company distinguishing itself from everyone else to show how different it is, it’s time for brands to work together. The brands that work together are the ones that can offer genuine solutions and help link us together.
De-branding is when a company removes its logo and name from a marketing campaign to make themselves feel less corporate. It’s a way for big, well-known companies to try and adjust their public image to position themselves as a more personable brand. Which is becoming increasingly popular as consumers become more and more wary of big corporations and instead choose local, independent brands.
But de-branding is also about bringing brand down to a real-world level. The focus should be on shifting the power of brand back into the hands of the people who are prepared to shape and protect it. Cards Against Humanity is an example of a brand giving power to its people. It’s not confined to corporate marketing campaigns and is pretty much free to do whatever it wants to build its identity. On Black Friday 2015, the company offered customers the chance to give them $5 in exchange for absolutely nothing. Brands like this are moving away from the typical form of branding and advertising, in favour of building an authentic customer experience where it’s down to the people in the company to run, advertise and advocate their own brand. As this balance is addressed and real people can take back the power of their brand we’ll see their voices coming through and a more authentic brand identity being created.
Customers don’t need branded dreams. They need products that offer authentic experiences. Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign involved taking photos taken on an iPhone and printing them on billboards with the tagline “Shot on iPhone 6” and the name of the photographer. The campaign was seen 6.5 billion different times and mentioned by 24,000 opinion leaders. It offered customers a genuine experience they could get stuck into. Products need to have real world value, not just conceptual value.
But this isn’t to say branding isn’t a useful tool. It’s not a way to shun advertising or a call to ban all marketing. It’s a rallying cry to take branding back to basics. A way to fall in love with brands all over again. By looking at what really makes a brand unique, the product or service at the centre of it all, you can build a unique campaign. By understanding why your product is great you can begin to understand what it means to your customers and create a brand experience that gives them what they need. Don’t just build your brand, believe in it – be your brand.