Q&A with Kantar’s Nicco de Jesus on Online Brand Strategy

Nicco de Jesus is currently the Media, Analytics and Digital (MAD) Business Director of Kantar Philippines, part of advertising giant WPP. He has over 20 years of experience in doing research and management science. Nicco headed the Marketing and Opinion Research Society (MORES) of the Philippines for two terms. He is very active in the Digital Measurement Board, the data science task force and helped with public health research.

Q1: Unlike in the Philippines and Vietnam, consumers in developed markets like Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand have low trust in brands online. Why is this so?

A: Consumers in more developed markets likely trust brands online less than consumers do in less developed markets because the relative risk of bots-gone-wild is higher and the relative ease of life brought about by technology for those in less-developed markets is significantly higher compared to the risks they face with the same threats.

Based on the annual global syndicated study of Kantar TNS called “Connected Life,” about 20% of online Filipinos object to having connected devices monitor their activities – even if it made their lives easier. This is lower than the 35% incidence in Emerging Asia and even much lower versus global incidence of 43%. There are exceptions, however. While in the UK, only one in 5 trust buying brands online, 57% in China extend this trust to online brands.

There’s no doubt that technology has made living much easier than, say, 20 years ago. But some items that perch high on the hierarchy of needs of consumers are threatened in the so-called “post-truth” world where social media accounts, political votes, love notes, family picture shares, and brand endorsements, can actually be bots – not real friends, voters, family nor consumers.
It is not farfetched that the next-tier markets will soon take the place of high income countries becoming just as wary and distrustful of digital purchases. Marketers should work hardest now to arrest feelings of distrust, and this is starting to be a tall order.

Q2: What lessons can countries like the Philippines and Vietnam learn from to avoid the low trust that developed countries have in brands online?

A: It is about time we all face the fact that living in a connected world is here to stay. Responsible marketing should be practiced online to the same – even further – extent as/than it is in the brick-and-mortar world. This then enjoins everyone to take on and understand what it requires to fully reap the benefits (and risks) of living and working in such a world, including business and marketing, of course. It’s a huge hurdle, but an important one, that implies responsible use of technology, agreement on digital effectiveness measurement standards (metrics), sharing of best practices (professionalism), balancing the need for profitability (ROI) and consumer protection, and enjoyment, etc.

Markets that remain trusting such as the Philippines and Vietnam will need to make
sure that there are safeguards in place to avoid repeating the first-world market abuses that eventually caused erosion in online brand trust. As things stand, 22% of consumers in the developed countries in APAC are fighting back with the use of ad blockers or apps to avoid online ads.
If marketers stay responsible in the use of online technology to communicate with their markets, and if they are able to communicate well and effectively, consumers in these markets may not find sufficient reasons to turn to these ad blockers to keep their sanity.

Kantar Millward Brown recently released another syndicated study called AdReaction, which showed 82% of Filipinos perceiving the increase in ads in more places. Equally revealing is that around 70% find that ads are more intrusive now, although half think ads these days tell better stories.

Clearly, marketers must get down and start rethinking their ads in terms of dynamic integration. They should start with a compelling and strong campaign idea that consumers can engage with not only when they are in their living rooms or at their office desks but in all possible JUST-THE-RIGHT MOMENTS. Again, this is obviously easier said than done. However, this does mean delivering enjoyable consumer moments and experiences via skillful storytelling, using appropriate technology within the right context and, of course, a product that genuinely delivers.

Q3: How should brands develop a framework that establishes trust with their customers while not missing their brand-boosting activities?

A: The emergent thinking is that artful integration of all elements is needed to deliver the brand experience consistently at just the right consumer moments.

Phrase alert: IN THE MOMENT. Consumers are looking forward to having more experiences as they are enabled to enjoy your brand in the accumulated micro moments not recognized before.

“How people feel today compared to how they felt 3 years ago” (Source: Kantar Millward Brown AdReaction Consumer Survey, Jan 17, 2018)

To stay ahead of the curve, marketers must be constantly guided by consumer behavior and motivations data. However, marketers will need to distinguish between good and bad data, use just the right technologies to be quicker, and will have to find ways to improve delivery of the brand promise on multiple platforms (online, mobile, retail, etc.). Thus, any framework will need elements that include: Crystal-clear brand objectives, consumer contexts (that vary by the moment), technology to deliver an enjoyable experience, and an overarching set of values to ensure trust.

Q4: How can brands tell better stories now that communication channels are highly fragmented?

A: Brands should be able to tell even better stories now if the aim is superior integration. Marketers should make sure that their creative development process is holistic. It should start with a clear brand strategy. Everyone in the marketing team should know deep within their gut what the brand stands for and what the brand story is all about.

We, at Kantar, firmly believe in archetypal marketing, which necessitates a deep understanding of consumer needs across all the layers of a human being – functional, social and emotive. Add to this an equally profound understanding and appreciation of the cultural context of the market, and chances are that you are on your way to developing a winning brand strategy.

The next challenge is how to translate the brand strategy into a brand communication strategy in such a way that none of the brand essence and story is lost, but is instead, amplified.  The creative or campaign idea should surface in most, if not all, the critical consumer moments a brand that is designed to be experienced. Each time it surfaces, an amazing and relevant piece of content leaps for the consumers to enjoy.

We understand that many marketers prefer to do trial and error by launching untested ads online and then just pull them out if they don’t work. We do not subscribe to this approach because there is no telling how much damage this can do to brands in the long run. We stand by our conviction that copytesting before launch is still the best way, and it applies to any ads whether online or traditional media.

To address the challenges posed by highly-fragmented channels, marketers should, of course, clearly understand the role that each channel (and ad format as well) plays in delivering the brand story. As the consumer jumps from one channel (or format) to another, he or she should be increasingly immersed into the brand story. One channel (or format) should provide the baseline story, another should build on it via layered messaging, and another may provide a much-needed reminder, and then another builds on it again. All in all, this means delivering to the market prompts and cues for brand stories and brand experiences that come out seamlessly. This way, the fragmentation of channels becomes a plus rather than a minus in artful integration.

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