Is tech killing off brand building? – by Braze’s Mariam Asmar

In an ROI-obsessed world, digital campaigns live and die by their quick commercial success, writes, Mariam Asmar, VP Strategic Consulting, Braze

There’s a crisis brewing within the creative community. Nearly half (48 per cent) of work that won a Cannes Lion award this year had limited potential for long-term brand building, according to a study by System1, which tested ads against its database of over 80,000 ads.

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At the same time, we’ve seen spend on digital campaigns soar globally. Digital channels, most commonly used for data-driven and performance-led marketing, are responsible for driving growth, and spend is projected to reach $409.9bn in 2022 – 55.5 per cent share of total ad spend.

So, are digital channels contributing to more short-term planning that could be short-sighted? In an ROI-obsessed world, digital campaigns live and die by their quick commercial success, and if they’re not driving results immediately, brands will pivot. Addiction to short-term results is the status quo and it became even more critical since the pandemic, as many brands looked to quickly rebuild sales after a challenging commercial period.

However, campaigns embracing long-term creativity are highly effective – eight times more effective than their low-performing peers, and almost 16 times more likely to bring major profitability growth,  according to the IPA. But it can take months or even years to win people’s hearts and minds to reap these rewards.

Increasingly, forward-looking brands recognise that there is a false tension between the need for short-term success and long-term brand building. They’re also seeing the need to bring these two worlds together using data and technology to inspire next-generation creativity.

Take for example how Snickers married tech and creativity in the UAE with its ‘Hunger Insurance’ campaign. To connect with young people, reaffirm its brand positioning, and drive sales, Snickers created bespoke hunger insurance. By sharing their ‘hunger blunder’ with an AI chatbot, customers could receive a coupon for Snickers with the amount determined by an algorithm analysing the data they supplied.

This creative application of tech drove impressive short-term results – a 21 per cent increase in foot traffic at retail outlets and an 18 per cent increase in sales. But it also boosted brand association with hunger by 30 per cent, a key pillar in Snickers’ longer-term brand-building strategy. Creativity and technology truly working in harmony.

This kind of creativity can only be unlocked if we knock down the legacy siloes that separate the people with sophisticated performance marketing skills from those with traditional brand creative skills. Making sure anyone can access data to inspire their efforts unlocks new avenues of creativity. Brands that can achieve this realise their creative “team” is bigger than they think, and benefit from new ways of thinking in how they approach creative challenges.

We’re already seeing a shift. A quarter of marketers are already beginning to merge their eCommerce and digital branding teams, and 27 per cent say they are adding specialised brand marketers into eCommerce teams (or vice versa).

But organisational overhauls take time. One simple solution could be to democratise access to data and technology. All too often, data insights are owned by stretched data analytics or engineering teams, making it difficult for creative teams to access them.

While many brands have already committed to the important data and technology investments that allow them to experiment, personalise and optimise customer interactions, the next step is to make this easy for creative teams to use without tapping scarce engineering resources. Brands need to move at the speed of culture, and their creative teams need real-time data and intelligent technology in order to do so.

We couldn’t be more excited for this creative renaissance. For too long, there’s been a false tension between creativity and performance. Brands that understand how art and science are natural partners in successful customer engagement and use technology as the catalyst for great ideas, will be the ones to reap the rewards from their customers.