Happy New Fiscal Year, folks! And Happy Canada Day to our friends to the north. Beyond my summer reading, which has little direct connection with the work I do, I’ve been trying to soak in some new insights about branding by reading articles on the subject. Here are a few — well, five — recent reads that I found insightful. Maybe you will, too.
1. Trustworthy brands
Let’s get the heavy lifting out of the way first by delving into some new research. In In Brands We Trust? — part one of a two-part special report from the Columbia Journalism Review — CJR Delacorte Fellows Danny Funt, Chava Gourarie and Jack Murtha introduce a discussion of keen importance for the news business these days. What role does trust play in consumers’ perceptions of journalistic brands — magazines in particular — in today’s always-on digital media sphere? Do consumers of news believe an article is more trustworthy if the source is the New Yorker instead of BuzzFeed News? What influence does the news outlet have on the reader’s sense of trustworthiness? “Trust is among the most sacred qualities of a news brand,” write the authors. “In less confusing times, reliable news brands served as guideposts.” But these days, when more than 60 percent of social media users get their news from Facebook, Twitter or some other social media platform, trust is on the wane. Only 12 percent of people who get their news from Facebook trust what they see there, according to one of several studies the researchers cite in part one of their report.
This is a thorough but readable literature review of the research on brands, branding, trust and journalism that the authors have consulted for an experiment they conducted, the results of which were just published a few days ago. In their experiment, the researchers recruited 279 subjects, who were randomly assigned to read the same long-form news article presented under the banner of one of three different brands: The New Yorker, BuzzFeed and a fictional publication called The Review. It turns out that the brand identity does affect credibility.
It’s fascinating research, and both the literature review and the results of this experiment offer some important insights beyond the role of trust in online journalism. There are many takeaways for college and university brand managers, marketers, graphic designers, PR specialists, etc. As we, like news brands, share more of our news or information online, what role does our brand play in the trustworthiness of the information we share?
2. Going native (and other ad strategies)
As more consumers use ad-blocker software to avoid pesky digital ads on their devices, advertisers are trying to become more clever about getting their messages to their target audiences. They’re “rewriting their marketing playbooks,” writes Suzanne Vranica in this Wall Street Journal article about newer advertising techniques. “Some are blurring the line between advertising and content, in the hopes of passing through the filter of what consumers actually see and read” — a technique known as native advertising, or ads “which seamlessly blend into a user’s feed and are harder to distinguish from editorial content.” There are many more tricks up marketers’ sleeves. Read Vranica’s article to find out more about these approaches.
3. When brands lack purpose
“Brands have long relied on claims of effectiveness, value or exclusivity to attract loyal customers. But the modern consumer is looking for more than just tamper-proof bottles and affordable jeans. … They want relationships with brands that reflect their values and create positive change in the world. A narrow focus on the classic purchase funnel from Marketing 101 is blinding brands to greater possibilities, when they could be engaging with fans and followers in ways that can enhance both their reputations and their bottom lines.”
And that’s the bottom line of this summary of a recent global study by Edelman on how consumers feel about brands that stand for something — or don’t stand for something. As Richard Edelman, founder of the PR firm that conducted the study, said recently, marketers need to add a “sixth P” to the classic five Ps of marketing, and that sixth P is purpose. And as I wrote in May about Edelman’s statement, higher education is — or should be — in a great position to convey the value of purpose in our marketing.
4. The unconscious power of brands
We like to think we’re in control. But we aren’t. That’s especially true when it comes to how we connect with brands.
In The Unconscious Power of Brands, Darrah Brustein notes that “research from neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics has shown [that] we humans are not nearly as rational as we think. Instead, we’re driven by subtle unconscious influences that have their basis in our distant evolutionary past. The ancient machinery in our brains is being used for tasks for which it did not evolve, and this can lead to many irrational behaviors and actions.” City a recent book about branding and the subconscious — Brand Seduction: How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands (note to self: get this book!) — Bruhstein offers four tips on how entrepreneurs can better understand the unconscious or subconscious workings of our brains to better position their brands. Although this article focuses on business owners, the takeaways could apply to higher education, too.
5. Branding is bull
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Have a good weekend.