Yes, You Can Build a Brand Online. You Have No Choice.
Most marketers have never thought of digital as a wonderful place to build a brand. But that must change if their brands are to stay relevant in our digital era. Based on our 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study, 65% of consumers report having had a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their opinion about a brand. Of that group, a nearly unanimous 97% say that their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand. Digital is not only a place to build a brand: it can also make or break it.
Actions Speak Louder Than Advertising
Digital is an experiential medium. For brands to digitally engage consumers today, they must not only stand for something but also do something. Branded experiences (or actions) are the new advertising. And consumers are increasingly hungry for them, sometimes ravenously so. To simply extend brand messaging misses the point. According to our study, 97% of consumers report having searched for a brand online; 70% have read a corporate blog; 67% have watched a commercial or video advertisement on YouTube; and 65% have played a branded, browser-based game like Got Milk’s “Get The Glass.” And consumers want to interact, regardless of whether brands are willing participants: 73% have posted a product or brand review on a web site like Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter.
Brand Culture or Fan Culture?
While conventional wisdom holds that consumers don’t want brands encroaching on their social or personal lives, this is far from the truth. In our 2008 study, we found that an overwhelming majority of consumers (76%) welcomed brand advertising on social networks. 2009 is the year of the “fan.” According to our study, nearly 40% of consumers reported having “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace and 26% have followed a brand on Twitter. The myth of marketing-free social spaces is just that. The “dialogue” between brands and consumers is not only frequent, but also welcome.
The Outlet Malls of Tomorrow? Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace
But what’s the substance of that dialogue between brands and consumers? Marketers are nothing if not passion-ate about their brands. Most assume that consumers are equally enthused. Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace seem like the ideal platforms to engage consumers around those “shared” passions. But, according to our study, consumers don’t want a conversation with brands—they want deals. Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, 44% say access to exclusive deals is the main reason. The same holds true for those who “friended” a brand on Facebook or MySpace, where 37% cite access to exclusive deals or offers as their main reason.
Bottom Line: Digital Brand Experiences Create Customers
There is no online equivalent of the Super Bowl for marketers—and with good reason. Digital is not simply an “awareness” play; it’s a customer-creation play. According to our study, the overwhelming majority of consumers who actively engage with a brand (e.g., follow a brand on Twitter or enter a contest) can evolve from passive reactors to advocates almost instantaneously. On average, 97% report increased brand awareness; 98% show increased consideration; 97% will likely purchase a product from the brand; and 96% may recommend the brand to their friends. Engagement equals affinity. Moreover, brands that use digital to drive awareness also drive sales: 64% of consumers report making a first purchase from a brand because of a digital experience.