As today’s digital world expands by leaps and bounds, the surrounding industries are challenged to evolve at equal speed. In the case of brand perception, while the job of maintaining a brand’s perception once resembled the work of Don Draper on Mad Men, shaping a brand’s perception today is a whole different ball game. Marketers today are challenged with seeking out millennials across the dozens of digital networks they use. Once located, marketers struggle to gain the users’ undivided attention and engage them in a significant and personalized manner. The long-term goal? To craft the brand’s desired perception within the mind of the user, ultimately establishing brand affinity and gaining user-loyalty.
But as marketers shape up their game to meet the rising challenges of the evolving digital marketing industry, new hurdles are constantly popping up. Within the ad-display industry, more and more users are installing adblockers, and moreover – as users are now bombarded with thousands of digital adverts per day, it’s become pretty damn hard for a particular company to stand out and make a lasting impression. As a result, marketing spend has gone up, ROI has gone down, and quite a few marketers have taken to ranting with frustration.
The aim of this article is to better understand how exactly brand perception is shaped, as well as establish which digital channels create the greatest impact on users, enabling marketers to carve out the brand perceptions they desire, and formulate deeper, long-lasting impressions.
What is a brand and how is it perceived?
According to marketing mogul Seth Godin, a brand is “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” These interactions are created by the company, and are a controlled marketing construct.
Brand perception on the other hand, is created by the consumer. According to Brandwatch, brand perception is “whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand”.
In other words, brand perception is basically a byproduct of ‘marketing done right’.
Now that we’ve got that straightened out, given the digital hurdles presented above, how can advertisers form a significant and lasting consumer impression nowadays?
Here’s a short review of 5 digital advertising channels, and just how effectively they can be used to shape brand perception.
- Social Media Ads – many advertisers create targeted ads on social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Waze and more. The benefit of advertising on these channels, is that they are the very place where users spend lots of their time. Thus the exposure they provide can be quite incredible, and some social networks allow advertisers to deep target their preferred audience based on a wide variety of personal preferences and interests. When it comes to formulating brand perception however, the medium is limited. Just because users are present on social networks, doesn’t mean they are receptive to interacting with paid advertising. In fact, many are not. They’re busy using their navigation systems to drive to work, or visiting their profile pages to update their latest photos. The ability to make an impression therefore, is easy, but a lasting one is not.
- Banner Ads – These popular advertising displays are paid for by advertisers who wish to distribute their company messaging, and ultimately draw customers into their landing pages and websites. The advantage of banner ads is that for a relatively small amount of money, advertisers can get a large amount of visibility. When it comes to establishing brand perception however, banner ads are far from ideal. First off, many of them get blocked by ad blockers. Second, they tend to interrupt user flow, thus establishing a negative experience with the advertising brand, rather than a positive one. Third, often times banners come off as “cheap” and “gimmicky” looking, automatically causing customers to perceive the advertiser’s brand as such as well.
- Rewarded in-game ads – Advertisers that wish to engage with customers on a more personal level will purchase in-game videos or display ads. The user would opt-in to watch a video or engage with an ad, in exchange for receiving a sponsored reward that will help them advance within the game play. If carried out while targeting maximum engagement moments within gameplay, rewarded in-game ads are an excellent way to make a lasting impression on the viewer and formulate a specific brand perception, as (i). the user must opt in, demonstrating interest in the ad and an open state of mind. (ii). Advertisers now have the user’s undivided attention, allowing for higher ad engagement (iii). By sponsoring users’ game-play, the brand also gains the user’s affinity and loyalty. The visibility and exposure of in-game ads, is of course limited to gamers only, but with nearly 2 Billion players worldwide, it’s a huge pool, constantly on the rise.
- Paid Search – Advertisers that wish to target users across the major search engines will invest in paid search advertising. This involves bidding on search terms input on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, for the chance to display a short company advert. Paid search is great for targeting users with intent, as ads only appear when a user inputs a relevant, predetermined search term. Desired users can also be deep targeted according to available data. While paid search is great at referring relevant traffic to advertisers’ sites, it’s a bit less successful at carving out a lasting brand impression. This is because paid search ads utilize highly standardized formatting, have limited display space, and do not allow for the usage of brand logos, colors, formatting etc.
- Interstitials – These paid adverts appear before or after expected web content, in the form of a webpage or a short video. They’re great for providing plenty of space for advertisers to get their message across, as well as getting users’ undivided attention, as the user is focused on his screen in expectance of landing on his desired destination. When it comes to brand perception however, the results are quite mixed. While some consumers may be happy to discover the great new advert being presented, the majority of viewers will simply be annoyed at having their user-flow interrupted – seeking the “X” to close it fast. The perception they form of the brand doing the advertising therefore, is more likely to be a long-lasting negative one, rather than a positive one.
The brand perception checklist
With the never-ending proliferation of digital advertising channels emerging, it’s easy to get lost in promises of high ROI, visibility, exposure, and conversion. But if it’s brand perception you truly seek, then the questions you should really be asking yourself are: Does this media channel allow the creation of ads that will grab users’ undivided attention? Will it engage my customers at a time they are most receptive? Will this media channel provide users with a lasting, positive interaction?
To effectively foster the positive brand perception you desire, put yourself in the user’s shoes, check the user experience funnel and make sure you yourself are left with a positive one.