Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harnessing the brand building power of social media

by Richard McLeod, head of marketing effectiveness, Insights, at Kantar

Businesses should be doing more to maximise their social media investment. It’s not that social spend is being neglected – according to our data, nearly 70% of marketers are planning to allocate more of their media budget to ads in news feeds, influencer content and most of all on stories this year.  

The challenge is that teams are failing to unlock social’s brand building power. The perception persists that traditional media like TV is the main channel for brand building while social delivers sales. However, social can do both, with some particularly impressive return rates. Our global cross-media database shows that while Facebook and YouTube only command an 11% share of investment from advertisers, the brand impact they deliver is nearly double, at 21%. In the current economic climate especially, teams can’t afford to ignore this opportunity. 

Brand building needs a bigger push in hard times

In times of rocketing inflation and high interest rates it’s tempting to park long-term brand building in favour of short-term sales, particularly as marketing teams face pressure from boards to deliver immediate commercial impact. But brand building matters even more during a cost of living crisis. As consumers review their spending and assess where they can make cuts or trade down, strong brands are in a far better position to protect market share and, crucially, profitability.  Our research found that even the most price conscious consumers would pay 14% more for brands they think are worth it.  

We also know from our BrandZ data that robust brands bounce back more quickly after times of economic turbulence. Compared with the wider performance of the S&P 500 and the MSCI World Index, we saw the strongest brands recover faster following the global financial crash of 2008, and more recently following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tug those heartstrings and keep brand central 

So keeping foot to the floor on brand building is important but how can marketers boost impact via social media?

Creative for social should be on a par with traditional channels, with the same considered investment dedicated to social content as would be for TV ads. Like broadcast, the best ads on social feeds entertain, engage and amuse; Kantar TGI data shows that entertainment content commands the most engagement among social media users, whether they visit sites once or fifty times a day. Ads that elicit an emotional response from consumers – be it joy, pride, nostalgia, or laughter are four times more likely to drive long-term brand equity.  Like TV ads, testing with consumers before launch is another tactic that social ads need to deliver on the investment.  

Content must be engaging but not at the expense of the brand message. Walkers got the balance right with its CrispIn or CrispOut campaign which took a relatable British topic, the humble sandwich, and gave it a humorous spin. People found it funny and got involved, posting their preferences, while the Walkers brand remained front and centre, cementing its place as a snacking staple.  

Stitch social into your campaign but tailor it to the platform 

The brand impact of a campaign can be amplified even more when content on traditional channels and social media all feels joined-up and alive. Our data shows that campaigns which are connected by a central idea, while still tailored to different channels, are 57% more effective at delivering brand impact.  The Walkers’ campaign for example remained relevant and responsive for much longer with a main TV ad, a shorter YouTube ad and a Twitter campaign sustained by celebrities weighing in with their opinion using hashtags.  

Social platforms offer a more real-time and responsive experience but also demand customisation.  TikTok is the “joker”, its humour is fast paced and often satirical. Facebook humour on the other hand is more personal. Content for these channels can’t be an afterthought to a brand’s bigger campaign, rather it has to be in the mix right from the start. 

All channels, done well

Times are tough and so brands’ horizons should be broad and thinking should be long term.  Businesses cannot afford to ignore the opportunity presented by social media, but must remember that it doesn’t work in isolation from other channels in the marketing mix. Both social and traditional need to be leveraged in a seamless way that extends the life and impact of a campaign to drive sales and brand building. With consumers’ budgets under pressure, brands have the chance to alleviate some of their pain, be visible and relevant in the time of their need. Instead of pulling back or cutting spend on branding, businesses need to focus on how to get maximum return on investment from the channels they are using.