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Brand Building in the Automation Age

Brands have undergone a few revolutions in their multi-hundred year lifetime. Two hundred years ago, a brand was a name and a trademark. In the 1900s, the idea of an emotional promise was added. Now brand is evolving yet again, to reflect a social promise, a continual relationship that a company can have with its customers. Implicit in the notion of a “relationship” are the contrarian yet complementary notions of evolving (a brand must stay responsive and reflective of its time) while maintaining consistency (a brand should stand for something and not waver on that stance).

At Ogilvy we call this Whole Brand thinking.

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We’re living in the age of the Instagram “brand”, and a lot of young companies feel they can use speed to market to skip the process of building a brand. You see these a lot on Instagram: some company you’ve never heard of purports to have the perfect yoga pant, or leather jacket, or casual shoe. They lure you in with a marketing pitch, a logo and with a promise. And maybe you make a purchase. How many of you have bought something you saw on Instagram? Even though you didn’t know anything about the company? I have. I’ve done that. But, here’s the important question: Have you bought from that same company a second time?

Companies need customer bases to grow. A loyal customer base make purchases, reliably, again and again and again. And loyalty is fundamentally about human emotion – because emotion is the way all of us are wired to make decisions and choices.

Today, as we grapple with the opportunities and limitations of a massively automated economy and the speed with which brands can be introduced, something about human connection and human relationships is being lost. As a result, brands both big and small, are struggling.

The struggles come down to the core of building any relationship: the human connection. Some brands get it right.

Philips as a brand at one point was known for being a so-so TV set manufacturer. Over time, the brand has pivoted to being about human health and technology that makes life better through innovation. We’ve partnered with them on this journey and we’re very proud of the work we’ve done for their Shaver business unit.

Using modern marketing methods – essentially through paid social channels, we were able to tell a strong emotional story, bring people down the funnel and get them to convert which led to incredible results driving $27MM in sales for the brand.

What does Philips get right? The combination of cutting edge performance marketing techniques with human storytelling – a barber with a mission to help the less fortunate by shaving and cutting their hair, when they can’t afford it. He literally transformed people’s looks, and created new confidence for all those he helped.

Everlane is a new disruptor. But they have done something unusual. Clothing manufacturing has always been one of the worst industries when it comes to production practices. In a time when none of us knew anything about how our t-shirt was made, Everlane put it on film. They disclosed wage information, marketing costs, material sourcing, everything. They called their brand platform ‘Radical Transparency’ and unveiled their inner workings.

What does Everlane get right? They realized that especially for brands hoping to capture share of the Millennial market, radical transparency was a surprising but very effective move.

Showtime is the originator of some fantastic content, but its business model was running out of runway. They came to us asking if they could make money any other way as more and more people cut the cord or simply never even have cable. Our modelling showed that the new business model—a subscription streaming service—could work if they could deliver personalization at scale; if they could drive brand loyalty by individual, personal, human appeal. We had to run precision modeling with their data, media consumption data, viewing data, research data on streaming habits, social data, third party data, behavioral data, using the most sophisticated technology to allow the model to inform targeting, creative, offer and messaging – one customer at a time. This approach allowed Showtime to reduce customer churn by 20% over 2 years and saved them 30% on marketing costs YOY.

What does Showtime get right? Plenty of data and technology – sure. But all in the service of connecting one human at a time to drive brand loyalty in a new business model.

What I think all these brands have in common is a certain kind of brand bravery. And for brands today, bravery is often about humanity. Amid the opportunities and constraints of the automation economy, all brands need to think about the tools we have at hand and how they can better the human experience.

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