Oath's Digital Prophet talks winning Brand Love
It's the month of Valentine's Day and love is in the air. As Oath recently began sharing the results of its proprietary Brand Love study, what better time to talk about the connection between brands and their customers? While some companies have products people simply buy, others have created brands people identify with, internalize, and advocate for—sometimes to the point where they'll even tattoo a logo on their arm. These are next-level relationships, and what we at Oath call brand love.
We reached out to David Shing, Oath's Digital Prophet, to get his take on brand love. Not surprisingly, Shingy (as he's best known) had a lot to say—including a few words on tattoos.
Our conversation is below.
Love is complicated. What does a brand have to do to win your love?
Brands I love are brands that reflect my values, provide exceptional service and experience, and surprisingly continue to surpass my expectations. They are brands that know they want to be loved.
Brand love is like human love. It's forgiving, it's happiness, it's comforting, it's familiar, it's exciting, it's real. Human love differs from brand love in how it is applied; family to family, friend to friend, lover to lover. What the two types of love really have in common is commitment—that's about as complex as it gets. Being aware of this as a brand means you can determine the type of commitment you want. If a customer feels connected, supported, listened to, challenged, understood and known, a brand can win that person's love.
The brands I love know who they are and how to stay unique and relevant. They understand why people should love them. These brands use their heritage as a nod to the past while inventing their future.
How is this different today than five years ago?
Brand love today is no different today than five years ago. The only differences are in the platforms used to communicate, the medium and the message. But the core of brand love is still the same and always will be.
What trends (particularly in mobile) are you seeing for brands to win love?
The one thing a brand can measure today is attention, particularly mobile attention. We increasingly spend more time with our mobile devices—more than TV, desktops, and wearables. According to data from Flurry, U.S. mobile users are, on average, spending 5 hours a day on their devices—and the majority of that time is spent on social and entertainment.
We have 24 hours in a day, and if we're spending 20% of that time on a mobile device, that's a lot of opportunity for brand attention. But brands need to think hard about their mobile strategy—as the vast majority of what people do on their mobile devices are app-driven, advertisers need to know that any awareness-based strategies used in the past won't work today. Consumers want to participate and have a sense of community, drive utility, and use all the capabilities of their devices to engage in a contagious experience. This comes from brands being brave and building something extraordinary. Steve Jobs summed it up perfectly: "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Why is appealing to our emotions so effective?
Brands typically need to achieve two things: sell overnight and build brands over time. No one single piece of creativity can do this. Selling overnight can be accomplished by typical direct response-type logic: Buy this product at a discount. Buy one get a bonus. Act now—offer will not last. This is pure rational, logical thinking.
Building your brand over time appeals to our emotions. Brands that make us laugh or cry—they make an impact on our heart and psyche by bringing meaning to our relationships with them. They often elicit a, "I wasn't expecting that" response. The power of this impact has a lasting effect from childhood memories to supporting our needs and wants as adults, making us feel superhuman—now that's powerful.
Is there a brand you used to love that let you down? No need to name names, but what happened?
Brands let me down all the time. No brand is perfect. But because I feel close to those brands and believe there is a relationship, I tend to give those brands permission to make mistakes. It could simply be a lack of quality or service, of recognition or reward.
The way a brand I love responds to feedback is as important as the reason I came into the relationship to start. This type of trust and bond can even allow brands to extend their purpose or pivot to a new product or service, and I continue to love them along the way.
There are a few brands who have let me down that I have fallen out of love with. Their purpose or utility does not fit mine and they are just not relevant anymore. I mean, it's a challenge for a lot of brands, how do you stay relevant to a core audience while appealing to a new one? That's the goal and it moves way beyond marketing.
Is there a brand you would get tattooed on your arm?
No. I have a few tattoos and that's a sacred space left for more intimate, personal expression, I guess I am way more subtle in my brand brag than permanent ink. Perhaps I would have had a tattoo of a brand on my body as a teenager but, boy, am I glad I didn't. I would have had to live with a KISS tattoo! And I'm sure no one wants to see that.