Adrian Peter Tse
Jun 12, 2015

Keep it human in the digital age: Millward Brown

HONG KONG - Technology will eventually give every marketer the ability to target consumers with precision. Nigel Hollis, global analyst at Millward Brown, believes that at that point, digital brand marketing will reach a stalemate.

Nigel Hollis
Nigel Hollis

Hollis spoke during a lunchtime panel discussion hosted by Millward Brown yesterday in Hong Kong. The event also included Claudine Pache, head of social and digital content with Intel Asia-Pacific and Japan, and Jason Oke, regional managing director of Red Fuse Communications Asia-Pacific. Campaign Asia-Pacific deputy editor Emily Tan moderated. 

“When everyone has the same digital marketing tools, addressability will be limited and improvements to marketing will be incremental,” said Hollis. “It’s just that the industry is in a state of flux now. We are in a world of fragmented media and there’s a battle to make tools that can piece it together.”

Hollis, who has been with Millward Brown for 30 years, predicts that when every consumer is targeted and re-targeted with a high level of efficiency, brands will experience diminishing returns on their digital marketing, because no one brand will have a competitive advantage.  

Referring to Millward Brown’s Brand Z study, Hollis pointed out that being “different in a meaningful way” and having “salience” is a key criterion for brands going forward. “From our research, brands that improve their salience have a chance to grow, while those that don’t have a slim chance,” said Hollis.

Yet, according to Hollis, “salience” or “brand awareness” is just part of the picture, and the most powerful tool for a brand is to be “meaningfully different”. He added that brands that are meaningfully different in the eyes of the consumer have a 20 per cent chance of growing, as opposed to just 6 per cent for brands that are not perceived that way.

In addition, Hollis added that consumers are willing to pay more for brands with these characteristics. “The big product or FMCG companies out there have always focused on volume and it's easy to get into that thinking when you have a well-established retail supply chain that churns out products,” said Hollis. “Eventually though, margins decrease and the only way to charge a premium is to enhance the brand.”

On the panel, Pache added to this. “I liken marketing to a relationship," she said. "First you just start out getting to know the other person. As you learn, you figure out how you need to be there for the other person. Are you there to engage or educate or something else?”

Oke discussed the marketing industry’s obsession with new tools and the negative impact that has.

“Normal human beings don’t see the world as paid, owned and earned media, or even as new and traditional media” said Oke. “As an industry we tend to get attached to shiny things, but our jobs are still the same, which is to understand and relate to people.”

Hollis concluded that it comes back to the fact that consumers themselves are like savvy marketers.

“People have ad blindness because they know where a banner is going to appear on a page, so they don’t look at it and they know where the cross button is when a pop-up comes up,” he said. "In the future, marketer will need to break the mould, gain ground and hold that ground. Being meaningfully different is just the start because they’ll have to be able to do that consistently.”


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