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The future of brand value: where finance and marketing meet

Branding  has never been more important than in today’s digital age, differentiating when the market is awash with online and real world noise. As the way consumers interact with brands changes, how can the industry stay ahead of the game?

" That’s a really important shift [for brands], from fulfilling needs to becoming meaningful. In the digital space it’s accentuated even more."
Mark Crowe, Managing director of Brand Finance Australia

ANZ group general manager of marketing Louise Eyres sat down with managing director of Brand Finance Australia Mark Crowe to discuss the state of the sector. They began by considering the actual impact of digital change on the industry.

Crowe: The expansion of the role of digital in business and on marketing has been profound. That’s not even up for discussion. It means the role of brand is going to be increasingly significant.

Brands have always had three purposes - to assist people with navigation and preference, to provide reassurance and to encourage engagement. Now the digital world has created a bewildering range of choice.

It’s the role of business to assist customers to form a preference around which brand they take comfort in and which one will provide them with not only what they need but something which has meaning to them.

That’s a really important shift, from fulfilling needs to becoming meaningful to the customer. In the digital space it’s accentuated even more.

Engagement is very significant because we’ve moved from marketing being a one-way communication tool with customers to now being two-way, or at times one way in the other direction, especially in the digital space.

Engagement needs to be underpinned by being very clear on the meaning of your brand and the way it communicates distinctive imagery andassociations, encouraging customers to identify with the brand.

Eyres: A strong brand strategy provides you with the flexibility to adapt to the business strategy.

A brand like Proctor & Gamble is using digital very much as a sales-first channel, around ecommerce, auto-replenishment and sales. Whereas a brand like L’Oreal is moving toward engagement, using digital to bring brand connection at the luxury end. Then a sale can come from that.

Different strategies and different business emphasis can be achieved if you have a strong brand. That’s the really exciting element for ANZ I think -the brand value, credibility and trust is there and we can take the brand into different geographies, segment needs and distribution channels while having credibility and relevance.

Crowe:  You make a really good point about how engagement means different things to different brands. For some the digital space it is about the experience while for others it’s very much about driving transactions.

Before trying to market digitally, companies need to almost take a step back and work out, from a brand perspective, what do we want the brand to mean? You’ve really got to define that first before you start working on engagement.

You need to understand your brand, its positioning in the marketplace and how you can build a meaningful relationship with customers.

The other point to make is that it can still be meaningful through only one touch point per year. It can be meaningful through over 1,000 transactions per year. The ways you measure brand effectiveness are many and varied.

Eyres: I think there’s certainly a new focus on the nexus between reputation and community and how it plays out in the digital space. At ANZ, while brand consideration was always a key driver in talking to our customers, we’re now looking at our corporate reputation in the context of non- government organisations, stakeholders, governments, and influencers – this is essential in a digital market.

In that space we’re seeing the conversation moving form branded content to cultural content, which is identifying and tapping into the culture of a segment, which can be done through digital.

We’re asking ‘what is ANZ’s role in a community?’ and bringing that to life from a brand perspective, rather than taking our perspective and imposing it onto a community.

Earlier this year Harvard Business Review started a conversation around cultural content and how businesses tap into emerging culture. I think how reputation and marketing come together in the digital context is a very compelling story for both long-term and near-term business outcomes. 

Crowe: Traditionally brands were a method in which you communicated with your customers.

Brands now are very much recognised in terms of their influence over a range of stakeholders including staff with internal marketing, relationships with markets and suppliers, the media, the public and various other intermediaries.

Eyres: I think the discussion around reputation is something worth focussing on. Something once seen as intangible is now having a real impact on balance sheets, both in the short term, from a profit-and-loss perspective, and long term.

From a marketing perceptive, seeing the intersection between corporate social responsibility and marketing and how it can effectively drive reputation has been fascinating. It’s opened a whole new conversation about the creation of value and where the sources of growth are.

Crowe: In Australia, a relatively small market, businesses do have the opportunity to be nimble when it comes to creating brand value; it nearly imposes upon you a requirement to be innovative.

As a result the Australian market is sometimes not perceived to be as sophisticated as Europe, the US or Asia. But I think the local market benefits from having to apply strategy in unique ways not bound by what can be the more rigid structures of larger markets.

Inevitably of course large players - like banks - in our small market can attract criticism; the bigger you are in a market, the larger the target you are. Banks especially have to accept they’re going to be closely monitored, inevitably will make mistakes and those mistakes will be amplified, especially in a digital world.

It really then comes down to how those situations are managed and understanding the role of brand reputation in that process. That way when it comes to a crisis as a business you are ready to implement a clear communication strategy.

Eyres: At ANZ we are really looking outside of geography for innovation in terms of brand value creation, as well as more and more outside of category.

Crowe: And technology again is helping break down those barriers. 

Earlier this year, ANZ was named the most valued banking brand in Australia and the third most valuable bank and overall.  But what is brand value really about?

Crowe: When we’re looking at brand value we’re essentially looking at the value of a brand in terms of arms-length transactional value.

However when we’re looking at brand value from the company’s point of view we’re not only looking at the value in terms of the sale price it may attract, we’re also looking at the value it contributes  to a business year on year.

Essentially it reflects a group’s investment in marketing and its effectiveness; both brand value and brand contribution.

Eyres: I think brand value can help tell the story of the marketplace over the past five years. What we have seen in the last five years in brand value reflects the broader economy; four of the top six most valuable banking brands are Chinese headquartered, while European brands have fallen away.

Just because you are in financial services doesn’t mean you can’t look and learn from what’s happening in consumer or professional services. The distinctions will become less over time.

Eyres: Indeed. And valuable brands have the trust with consumers to be able to extend in that way. The reach of Amazon and what it is capable of delivering comes from the credibility it has built in terms of its proposition.

Amazon is not defined by category and that is something we need to look toward in financial services as pure-play technology groups rise.

Crowe: The most important consideration in marketing is what happens where the transaction takes place. You look in the digital space, the tech companies are all looking at what happens at that point of purchase and how they can expand into that space in various industries.

This represents a big opportunity for the banks because their transaction capability is significant in terms of scale and efficiency.

Louise Eyres is group general manager of marketing at ANZ and Mark Crowe is managing director of Brand Finance Australia. 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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