Following are some takeaways:
1. Consumer irrationality is declining, causing a decline in brand influence: When measuring the impact of advertising on a brand, marketing researchers must include an estimate of the influence of online reviews. These reviews enable consumers to judge companies without using branding as a quality shortcut, said Itmar Simonson, Sebastian S. Kresge professor of marketing at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, during the opening keynote. For example, small, local restaurants are thriving as consumers use reviews to judge restaurants that cannot afford large advertising budgets.
One key question to ponder: Is Simonson’s research a reflection of consumer changes or the decline of brand-building by marketers?
2. You’re not really that different: According to Youngme Moon, author of “Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd,” researchers must think like customers. In many categories, customers see one brand as the same as another, even though marketers and company executives believe there are differences. Researchers must deliver results that brand managers can use for meaningful differentiation, Moon said. In addition, companies must take their fundamental brand assumptions and flip them on their head in order to stand out. Ikea served as an example, denying the fundamental expectations of a discount furniture retailer–delivery and assembly are up to the customer.
3. Identifying your brand’s purpose is a powerful driver for employees and customers alike: Jeff VanDeVelde, SunTrust’s SVP, director of client experience and loyalty, cautioned against marketing measures that ask what a customer can do for the brand (i.e., generate revenue from purchases) instead of asking what the brand can do for the customer. Only by understanding how the brand integrates into a customer's life, especially at an emotional level, can the brand best serve a customer's needs.
4. Youth culture may eat your social media strategy and taint your results: According to Danah Boyd, author of “It’s Complicated” and Microsoft researcher,” teens delight in hacking Facebook and Twitter. They understand these social platforms prioritize messages and tweets mentioning a brand name over personal content, so their posts contain misuses of brand names in order to make them appear in their friends’ feeds. Market researchers who track brands must take that into account.
More important to your social media strategy is understanding that while teens today seek connections, they are irritated by prying eyes, whether of their parents or marketers.