Why social media matters to your brand

In 2013 we saw some remarkable developments in brand building, in both the online and offline spaces. We’ve put our heads together to bring you our branding trend predictions for 2014, based on where we think we’re heading in the near future. Here’s a quick look into the Engage and Connect teams’ top 5 branding trends for the year ahead.

1. Say hello to Big Data

Big brands need to (and many are starting to) incorporate big data analysis and the resulting insights and metrics into the decisions that drive their brands. It’s still early days but reconfiguring store layouts and targeting messaging are just two feedback loops where greater analytics have upped sales and increased engagement. Very few brands are getting it right at this point (especially in developing markets) and those who are are keeping their cards close to their chests. But there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from smart data collection and insight generation on the back of it. One such lesson is to always ask whether data’s value can be extended beyond the primary function for which it was originally intended. For example, what Discovery can learn about individuals and their risk profiles from their driving could be employed in other aspects of the business (such as calculating their creditworthiness). One piece of required reading, if this trend interests you: the aptly named ‘Big Data’ by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.

2. Less is more

On the social media front in particular, we’re seeing that a brand’s success in the digital space, will be much more about building genuine emotional engagement than racking up likes. Brands will look for real interaction that has impact, is sustainable and leaves people with an authentic connection to your brand. Our favourite recent example of a brand putting this belief into practice comes from Burger King Norway, who embraced this trend by stripping its Facebook page of more than 30 000 fans. It may sound like social media suicide but the much touted move was really a stroke of inspired genius – offering Facebook fans the opportunity to like a new page for ‘true fans’, or receive a free Big Mac (along with a ban from Burger King for life). The result was that Burger King was able to isolate their ‘real’ fan base and do away with trolls and opportunists. For them, having a solid Facebook fanbase of 8000 Burger King lovers was far more meaningful than an impartial 38 000.  Take a look at how they went about creating a platform of real fans and bettering engagement levels.

3. Digital gets real

While it’s taken some time for brands to latch onto the power of technology to really create meaningful brand experiences for the man on the street (especially in emerging markets like South Africa) examples of digital touchpoints being properly integrated with the real world in a truly meaningful way are few and far between. Digital campaigns have generally lived on your computer or cell phone screen or are launched as a once off campaign with more spent on PR ‘amplification’ than on actually bringing the experience to the masses. Things are changing though. Coca-Cola’s campaign in India and Pakistan last year is a great example of using technology to create real brand impact.  Designed to unite regular Pakistanis and Indians through a unique interactive vending machine, it’s a beautiful example of the power of digital solutions in creating real world interactions. Although this campaign still feels very PR heavy – it’s a step in the right direction for sure. You can watch it here.

4. Mobile takeover

South Africa is ranked 5th in world for per capita mobile data usage and the country’s (and Africa’s) mobile users are becoming ever more sophisticated along with the technology they hold in their hands. With more active sim cards in South Africa than people, it’s no secret that mobile eCommerce has been set to explode for years but the tech is finally catching up to the dreams.  A few solutions for mobile enabled eCommerce are set to launch next year and are likely to accelerate things dramatically. Mobile eCommerce accessible to South Africans with PIN based debit cards is one such advancement that’s worth keeping an eye on.

5. Personalisation

Personalised products and services are more in demand than ever. Brands that recognise this and meet this need will be in a position to take engagement to new levels. This is something that will become increasingly evident on the digital front. With so much content on so many platforms competing for viewers’ attention, brands will need to shift their focus away from trying to reach the masses, to niche targeting in order to be seen and heard (more about this trend in Connect Brandcraft’s 2014 Digital Trends).  A great example is Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign which replaced the iconic Coke logo with popular names from various countries. In South Africa names like Piet, Sipho and Karabo were used to personalise a very mainstream product.

For more trends to look out for in 2014, check out Branding Trends on the Engage blog and Digital Branding Trends on the Connect blog.