As we look toward a third year of living with COVID-19, savvy marketers know that meaningful, personal connections will be the key to long-term brand health. For that, they’ll need to focus on building and maintaining trust with their audiences—as well as which channels to leverage in those efforts.
While it’s important for brands to maintain balanced marketing strategies, marketers should be mindful of consumer sentiment as they allocate their media spending. For example, Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study found that brand sponsorships are among the most trusted advertising sources among global consumers, yet most marketers don’t readily consider newer ad formats like brand integrations, sponsorships and product placements in their media planning. In fact, almost 34% of marketers surveyed for our 2021 Annual Marketing Report deemed these marketing formats as not important at all.
The report highlights how important digital channels have become from a marketing perspective, evidenced by significant increases in planned spending across email, search and social media. Digital marketing, especially conversion-oriented efforts, are attractive because they drive sales in the current quarter, not the next. The appeal of near-term sales—and the ability to measure the effort—serves to grow investments in these strategies. And to that effect, marketers surveyed for the report believe email, search and social media are the most effective for their businesses.
The downside of focusing too heavily on these digital channels, however, is that our recent Trust in Advertising study found that consumers don’t consider these channels very trustworthy.
Compared with their planned digital spending intentions, marketers aimed to increase their spending across traditional channels very minimally. Only 1.15% of marketers, for example, said they planned to boost their TV and AM/FM radio spending by 50% or more, and just 4.23% planned to increase spending on these channels by 1%-49%. From a consumer trust perspective, these traditional channels rank significantly higher than most digital avenues.
At a very high level, marketers typically categorize their efforts as either brand building or conversion-driving and then plan their channel strategies accordingly. Heading into a new year, marketers should keep their primary objectives top of mind as they plan their spending and channel strategies.
Our Era of Adaptation report notes that marketers’ top objectives heading into the second half of 2021 were brand awareness (25%) and customer acquisition (42%), with customer retention carrying significantly less weight (19.6%). For brands with those objectives in mind, and knowing which channels consumers find most trustworthy, marketers should be focused on brand building and awareness strategies. Our recent Brand Resonance white paper highlights that conversion-focused strategies stand in opposition to numerous academic studies that claim upper-funnel marketing is the best path to growth.
Debates about growth-building notwithstanding, marketers shouldn’t make assumptions when it comes to channel choice and expected sales impact. Studying channel effectiveness in driving long-term sales can help marketers understand how strong a particular channel is at driving awareness and other upper-funnel metrics that have latent sales effects. Consumers, for example, believe television is among the best channels for becoming aware of a brand. Yes, TV is, on average, one of the most effective channels for driving long-term sales lift, but every campaign is different—and so is the effectiveness of TV across them. For example, in 25% of Nielsen brand studies, we found that TV was in the lowest quintile of all channels in producing long-term effects. In a separate 25%, however, it was the very best. So the key takeaway for marketers is that without measurement, the quest for meaningful growth may ultimately hinge on generalizations, assumptions and gut feelings.
There is no discounting the effectiveness of leveraging digital channels to strengthen relationships with existing consumers, but it’s important that marketers seeking long-term growth consider consumer sentiment in addition to their martech stacks. When word-of-mouth is the most trusted channel among consumers—and has grown as such over time—marketers should be as people-focused as possible.