Why Brand is Regaining Traction in Digital Marketing

Building Brands Ep 36 - Tim Bouchard - Why Brand is Regaining Traction in Digital Marketing

A solo-cast with Tim Bouchard, Owner & CEO of Luminus diving into how new privacy restrictions and opt-in settings for device and online platform users are going to affect paid retargeting funnels and how brand building will start to regain traction again as a major strategy consideration for digital marketing.

Episode Links
Find Tim on LinkedIn

Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome building brands listeners. For this 36th episode, I’m added again with another solo cast. In this episode I’m going to dive into how new privacy restrictions and opt in settings for device and online platform users are going to affect paid retargeting funnels and how brand building will start to regain traction again, as a major strategy consideration for digital marketing. Enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner and marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. on this show, we talked about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in and let’s get to it.

Tim
Alright, let’s get started. So for those of you that haven’t been listening to the other 35 episodes of the building brands podcast, my name is Tim Bouchard. I’m the owner and CEO of luminous which is a creative agency in Buffalo, New York, we do strategically branded creative with the digital edge. And what that means is that everything we do is relevant to the target audiences of the companies we work with. And in our last episode with Alex Cogan, we brought up a topic about how brand was actually coming back into gaining traction in digital marketing, which had become so data driven, and so cost effective funnel based machine and mechanics of a funnel, and how brand was actually starting to infiltrate back into that because of companies like Apple ramping up the restrictions on cookies and the timelines that you have the ability to keep people in your funnel. So I thought it would be a good a good time to dive in and do a solo episode on that myself, for you guys to listen in to this might be a quick episode. But I think it’s a pretty cool topic and something to consider moving forward in this year and the coming years in your communication strategy plants.

Tim
So yeah, when you get down to a digital marketing has been and rightfully been touted as the most effective and direct way to market to audiences. It’s the ability to pay pennies on the dollar to get in front of absolutely the right customer. And then not only that, but track their behaviors along the way, all the way to them contacting you, or purchasing something is absolutely incredible to know that X dollars in equals and x dollar sale and literally calculate the ROI on a marketing effort that you’re doing. And that’s really great. It all relies on technology. And the thing that we sort of forget sometimes is that it actually relies on the user’s consent to a long, usually boring, nobody looks at legal ease Terms of Use agreements that people just blindly agree to that are associated with things like Facebook and YouTube and Google and and all these apps that we’re using, because nobody has time to read a 20 page legal document that they expect you to read before you check that off. So what’s happened is you have all of these companies and these platforms like Chrome, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, tik tok, where any company can pay to get their brand in front of an audience target, and very easily entice them to click into the website, then they can retarget that person for weeks based on literally the product or service that they viewed on the site, and then track them when they come back and see how they’ve progressed through the funnel. It’s it really is an incredible thing. It’s scary to some people. And sometimes we joke around when we’re talking with clients, or the client will joke around and say like, Oh, this feels very big brother. And you know what it actually is very big brother, which, with the level of detail and control that you can have over the funnel in those scenarios. When you think about it, it’s pretty unreal, that this has been the way that people can market for the last 10 to 15 years since social and and search have really come to fruition in the internet.

Tim
The other thing that’s happened is over the past 10 or 15 years, this has actually put other forms of advertising like print and multimedia and out of home placements in the rear views. It’s also unintentionally maybe intentionally led to some people thinking that brand actually doesn’t matter anymore. If you can pay to just get in front of someone, track them straight to a conversion and get what you need out of them, then why build a brand and why have all of these extra things to get people to believe in your company, if you can literally just find them where they need to be take them to the spot they need to go to and have them do an action, you would assume that I think that’s incorrect. But that has been a little bit of a side effect of the digital marketing revolution that’s happened over the last couple of years. But having said that, that’s all changing and it’s changing pretty rapidly now and might actually be ramping up and changing even faster in the coming months and years. You have as I mentioned before, companies like Apple are actively combating the cookie culture that’s been created over the last decade and starting to limit the reach of certain third party advertisers on their devices and their platforms at the iOS app, Apple marketplace for the apps, specifically, the user opt in within iOS, and the duration of accepting cookies there, they’re limiting to tracking for people that are even opting in to be tracked, they’re limiting that to about a seven day range right now. So you may have been able to do something like retarget, someone for six weeks or so to give them multiple touch points and guide them through coming back to a website and making a purchase. But that’s been contracted down to seven days. And I can only see that happening across more platforms, and then potentially even getting more strict is really only the beginning.

Tim
From a corporate perspective. This is a company like Apple taking steps to become a user advocate. And what they’re doing is reversing course on the user being the product. And it’ll be interesting to see if someone like Facebook or Google with their the actual advertising platforms, will actually start to take these steps to and figure out different, more appropriate ways to keep people in marketing, promoted marketing funnels, and experiences. But for right now you have outsiders like apple, who are seeing people using their apps, injecting Google ads, and Facebook serving ads through its app, and cultivating all of this revenue coming through their platform. And they decided that they wanted to start taking a stand Apple has very actively in the last couple of years, even with its devices and phones made a point to say that they are a user privacy advocate. So it’s not really surprising that they started to go down this route.

Tim
From a user perspective, this is the first inspirational action to take privacy more seriously than they have before. As theories and stories and productions. Like you may have seen the social dilemma come out, I think it was on Netflix in 2020. And other pieces about how targeted and promoted and algorithm based content that are being served up through search and social are actually starting to shape society, you can have your own opinions on that. But it is affecting how people view using these platforms. And you’ve seen some of the generation starting to leave platforms like Facebook, because they’ve gotten tired of it shaping their view of the world. So that’s actually becoming something from the user side that’s they’re becoming more aware of as well. And then you see things like politics becoming more entrenched in digital search and social platforms. And it just it starts to get really mucky. So that’s where you see people like Apple starting to step in and say like, they want to start separating that from what’s the experiences using their devices and the apps that are in their store. But really, what does this mean for advertisers, right? That’s what we’re really talking about, and brand builders. Over the last 10 or 15 years, companies have made sweeping changes to build effective digital marketing strategies and funnels, they wanted to understand who was looking at something where the money was going, what money was coming out how effective their strategies are. And that was easy to do, and digital. So a lot of budgets have been transformed from trade, trade shows, print materials, and commercials and billboards into saying we’ll do a little bit of those, but move 80% of the budget over into digital advertising and SEO efforts.

Tim
What’s happening is now that you’re starting to see the cookie culture brought back in and dialed down, it means that the funnels will still work, but it’s going to be a very different approach. Now, you might not have six to eight weeks to keep someone engaged in an active promoted marketing funnel, it actually means that brand is going to start making a comeback. Go figure. That’s why we’re talking about it on this podcast. It means that other aspects of digital marketing besides just the paid targeting tactics will start to become more important as well, such as SEO, content marketing. And what for some reason died off in the last five to eight years because of the popularity of paid promotion. Email Marketing is actually going to come back to the reason people don’t like SEO content and email marketing as a priority in their digital marketing Arsenal is because their long term tactics, despite the fact that they’re actually more successful than paid promoted advertising on digital, they are longer term and also more work to do because they are value pieces versus short term selling pieces. And that’s a hard fact for some people to actually admit, but it is the truth. So what you’re going to be doing is adjusting the paid search and social marketing funnel. You know cookies aren’t going away, you’ll still be able to track and retarget tab targetable data for retargeting, the limitations will be down to what personal User Settings anyone might have on their specific device. And that will end up limiting the target audience pool that everyone’s been used to having that were automatically opted in for the last decade or so. And the duration of those that you are able to target that are opted in will be lower, it’ll be down to around a week, seven days, whatever it gets constricted down to in the future, so it’s much shorter. So that means you’ll have way less touchpoints to regain traction with the user after you put a paid promotion in front of them. So for those that see big returns on retargeting funnels, there will be less impressions see now as that window shrinks, which means ultimately there will be less sale.

Tim
So where is this going to shift, the funds can be relocated to boost the first touch exposure ads, it’s one way to get over this hump. Because a first based ad is not cookie based. It’s just interest based and demographic based and algorithm base. You could also shift to search phrase or content promotion as an additional first impression placement. So what that means is, you won’t have as much budget put into retargeting funnels anymore. So where are you going to put that money? Well, you could boost the first touch advertisement. But you could also reallocate those dollars into longer term activities like search and content. But ultimately, if you are going to take the approach where you start to dial into the other aspects of digital marketing, the long term aspects of the brand building aspects, then you’re going to get into search and content and email, which is another way to deliver that content, other than search, and social. And what you need to do that is you need to have brands come back into play, you aren’t just making the quick sale anymore. It’s not just having the really good 10 word ad that shows up in Google search, or the very awesome caption and good graphic or motion graphic for social to grab people’s attention. Now you’ll be going back through creating long form content and value based content and getting that to rank for you in search and be pushed out through social and be shared through opt in email list. So that’s actually a really cool side effect that might be coming because of the dialing back of the cookie culture and the retargeting funnel in user permissions.

Tim
The ease of digital marketing has made it so that for generic service or product based terms, anyone can compete for visibility, regardless of company name, stature, reputation, history, quality, etc. So rather than let’s say someone’s searching for Acme windows, and that being the go to search for Windows, the user behavior is actually to search for Best Windows for my house. And then checking user reviews and installation photos. That’s, that’s what someone does, when they don’t have a brand preference, they’ll go after that type of search phrase, that’s how they’ll enter into their buying consideration. journey. Any company can pay to be seen for the term windows and show up above all the most reputable companies and search results. And that is a very easy thing to do. It will cost money, but it’s very easy to do. And that just levels the playing field when you really think about it.

Tim
So what is the defining factor beyond that? Well, that’s when you get into brand positioning and value and, and all those types of topics. But before digital to find a product or service provider, the prior solution was asking a neighbor, what windows Did you get on your house? And do you like them? It wasn’t go to Google and search for Windows and then look at customer reviews. And then someone would ask for that brand by name of the person that they were asking what windows they had, they would go to the store and say I want Acme windows, my neighbor got Acme windows, if you’re speaking with a contractor designer, if you’re at whatever the home products store is in the area, that’s what they would have done. They said, Oh, my neighbor got Acme windows, I’m interested in finding out more about Acme windows. That’s what you technically want the experience to be now. But it has to translate to search and a digital experience, which is rather than searching for the term of the thing that they’re looking for search for the name brand of the thing that they want and associate the brand name with the solution, not the actual product itself. Companies abandon that strategy when the short term wins of paid digital marketing and cookie targeting came around. And I think that that’s something that’s going to come back is starting to actually own the brand name for your segment of the industry.

Tim
And the real results of focusing more on the funnel development for services and product types rather than brand building is a really quick way to become one of many, which is not very differentiated and hard to actually pick out versus the one and then everyone else is the others. So that’s something where maybe brand coming back into the fold will actually help companies start to actually win the right battle instead of just winning the bidding battle online. There’s no more valuable user than the one that serves By brand name straight up, there’s no one that can dispute that. Once established, it costs nothing to have that user seek out the brand. And the next time they need an Acme window and they search for Acme online, they will be the customer again, that comes back. They refer to their windows is Acme windows when they’re talking about them. They use Acme resources to learn about window styles and follow Acme outline for inspiration for design. There’s long term value and loyalty from that type of customer that searches for brand and seeks out brand versus looking for a product. And that’s also where you differentiate from someone buying based on price versus buying based off of value and belief in the product. And that’s something that was somewhat lost in the rush to digitalize funnels. And that will be coming back and funnels will still exist. But it may start to infiltrate and blend a little bit with brand building at the same time, as you see funding shift from things like pay promotion of advertising into paid promotion of content.

Tim
So with the continued and growing push to give privacy control back to users, brands will need to be brought back into the mix. And that push should be for increasing branded searches and social and great engagement. And that would be through content and value based communications, not just selling. If you are going to reallocate funding into non paid digital marketing strategies, how can digital still be used to build the brand then? So I’ve referenced a few let me just dig a little bit deeper into them. Content Marketing will be a big one, users are increasingly becoming DIY minded. And they’re looking to companies and brands for inspiration and education, not just on their products, but what their product segment that they’re looking to invest in, can do for them as customers. And it’s no different than the days of back. When you had Betty Crocker having a cookbook to complement their baking products. They had the products they were creating content and usable tools for their customers that incorporated the products but also better their lives. Same thing for the Michelin brand creating the Michelin star system for destination restaurants, right Michelin wanted to be associated with travel and taking people to destinations that they couldn’t get to because of their tires. And that’s something that’s actually stuck around well beyond I think Michelin’s brand value a Michelin stars almost more well known than Michelin tires. But it is another way that they created an experience and associated themselves with something that bettered the customer.

Tim
Brands need to educate their audiences and become the resource and the voice for their segment. Those paid dollars that went towards the eight to 21 days of retargeting. A company may not get any more as these privacy restrictions start to contract, they can go to the development and promotion of valuable content pieces that the audience needs instead, by becoming the name in the industry that also helps impact SEO, by making the company name the search term, rather than just the service of the product, which could be easily outbid through ad strategy. And yeah, people can bid on brand names do get above you in the search results. But if someone is really seeking out a brand through search, they’re also going to realize that they didn’t end up in the right place if they search for Nike shoes, and they end up on some generic shoe company site that targeted Nike, for as a search term, someone’s going to understand that they’re not on Nikes website looking at shoes. So yeah, that people can try and be fooled. But I think the consumer that is searching for a brand is smart enough to recognize they didn’t end up in the right spot, go back and then seek out the right spot. But in terms of SEO and optimization in search, there’s no easier way to get a visitor who’s willing to convert than by ranking for the brand name. And that seems like an easy shortcut for SEO, right? There’s only one maybe a handful companies in a country if you’re talking regionally that share a brand name. So of course, we’re going to rank on the first page for that. That’s great, you should and it should be very easy to rank for that brand name.

Tim
The thing you need to do with optimization is have that brand name show up in all of the other auxilary searches so that the brand name becomes more visible, the content pieces become more visible and the social aspect of this becomes more visible. So that when people see the brand name and search for the brand name, they end up in the right spot and you own that area of the internet. Because someone that searches for brand will convert will be on the site longer will be a more valuable lead than someone that was just fed an ad and just happened to be right place right time they go visit but there’s a very low click through percentage and a very, very low conversion percentage Nobody else can compete for a brand name and search organically, they can pay, which is a not a great paid strategy, but they can’t organically compete for the brand name. Compare that to everyone being able to compete for a service or product term ranking and search. And then you have 20 companies vying for Windows is their their main search term. And it will always be changing as those companies change their SEO strategies and add their content, you’ll see those rankings fluctuate. Same with ads and bidding and paid search, you’re going to be you’re going to see higher bid costs, because it’s a popular term. And anyone can place an ad for that type of term. So it’s not hard to show up in the top three spots in a search. So those are very competitive, and very crowded spaces as compared to a brand search and a branded search. When your company would own the Google Map cluster, the first few organic results and the social media profile results that show up for that brand. So that’s that’s what you’re looking for is to own the entire page, save some of the paid search ad slots for your brand name. That’s the goal for that.

Tim
Another thought on the comeback of brands that I think is relevant to the current times is that 2020 saw a shift in the target audience and customer behavior. The customer started questioning brands positions on things like economic and social issues, because they wanted to make sure that they aligned with their own views of the world. They also relied on brands to inform them on how to buy and use their product or service since more things were becoming DIY, you had a lot of companies that traditionally didn’t sell online starting to sell online. Well, how do I pick the right thing, if I’m buying this online, and I’m not familiar with it? Well, now you’re talking about developing a library full of educational resources to complement your very new ecommerce experience, you may need a customer service team to help online through chat or phone to help people along with that. So what happened is, there are more demands for value and educational based content out there, because of the changing habits of the consumer. So that’s another thing to keep in mind when it comes to brand building, they’re actually setting the table for you to do this, you just have to hear them and then buy into the fact that they want this type of information from a brand. The brands that did shift away from always just trying to sell to instead be a supportive resource for their customers. They’re the ones that not only survived the pandemic in the last couple of months, but coasted through it, and are thriving now in 2021, because they’ve already set the table for their optimization content and change in customer engagement interactions. So they’re ahead of the game, everyone that’s thinking about it. Now, yes, you should do it. But you’re going to be catching up to those that have already started that transition last year when they were ultimately forced into it. But then really saw the benefits of it and dove deeper into committing to it.

Tim
Audiences no longer want to be sold to, they want to be educated and inspired. And they will remember the name of what brand help them regardless of what the service or the product is that’s offered. That’s what you want. You want the name of the company to stick with them so that they think of you the next time they need that thing either purchased or done for them. Simply put, right now there’s no better investment than in brand building communication tactics, a target, who will quickly forget about your company name after they viewed your website via searching for Windows. Someone that search for Acme windows, we’ll never forget that Acme was the company they search for and they will search for Acme again. So the branded search just sticks having someone remember your company name versus the product or the service just sticks. It’s a long term play. But it is infinitely better than just meeting them for a product need. It’s becoming the go to source for that need.

Tim
So this all means something to us. And I’m talking about it so passionately. And I wanted to bring this topic up because at Luminus we believe that all marketing communications should be brand driven and relevant to the target audiences that our client brands communicate with. So if you’re interested in adding that approach into your brand’s marketing communication strategy, check out our website, we have stuff about our process and how we like to go about that and shoot us a message if you want to learn more about it. Things are changing rapidly. Don’t get left in the dust at the very least use this type of conversation to take it internal and talk about how you might be able to adjust your paid funnel and either reallocate dollars within that to start to work around what some companies are doing with privacy restrictions and or reallocate some of those funds to more long term, beneficial communications tactics like search content, email marketing and building up an actual loyal list of brands. Driven customers versus product or service based advertising customers. Of course, you can always feel free to reach out to me directly on LinkedIn at Tim, or shoot me an email if you’d like at Tim at luminus dot agency.

Tim
And as I usually do with these solo casts, I make this appeal to all of you wonderful listeners, I’m always looking for more guests for the podcast. Even though this is only a bi weekly podcast, it is still a lot of work to find guests, even utilizing the great networks of the people that have been on the show already. So if you know any owners or marketers in the building materials or building product spaces, or designers, architects or contractors that are doing something really cool with products or for customers are creating amazing things, suggest them to check out the podcast and encourage them to reach out to me, I’d love to have them on as guests. I love sharing the conversations I have with the guests and sharing them all with you and meeting everyone and helping them tell the stories that they have to share with all of you. So do me a salad and pass along the word and let’s keep the momentum going. This was a very fun little short solo cast to do for you. I hope you gain some inspiration out of it. And I will catch you all in the next episode when I have a new guest on.

Tim
If you’re interested in hearing more stories and strategic insights from industry experts, please subscribe to the Building Brands podcast on Apple, Spotify or Google. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please post a review and share with others who may be interested as well. Thanks for listening.