Millward Brown is undoubtedly one of the most respected global research companies. With MB’s growing operations in Nigeria, its chief global analyst, Nigel Hollis came calling recently. In an interview, Mr. Hollis field questions on a number of issues including nurturing a meaningfully differentiated brand, challenges to marketers, position of research and advertising among a host of other issues. Brandcrunch was represented at the interview session.
Why are you visiting Nigeria for the first time?
Nigeria is a very important country for us, particularly as it is a developing economy. Also, many of the global brands we work with are already here, so we are here to service their needs and also the needs of local companies who have continued to recognise that they need to get more information on what consumers think about their brands and how to improve and develop the brands to compete against those global brands. I am here because we are developing a new approach to measuring brand equity and brand health, and we are rolling that out around the world.
Also, I have just finished writing a new book called the Meaningful Brand. Part of what I am doing is presenting the ideas behind that book to different audiences around the world and collecting case studies and feedback.
What would you say are challenges faced by marketers?
Nigeria is similar to the rest of the world, especially in the developing economies. This is because if you look at how fast the world is changing, people have to get to grips with a lot of different moving parts to execute their marketing campaigns effectively. I think in the process many marketers are beginning to forget that their brands still need to stand for something. They are focusing too much on how do I do this, where should I be and what should I do. If they know exactly what their brands stand for, in our terminology, we say what makes it meaningfully different; it becomes a lot easier to choose which distribution channels, media channels they should use and how the brand should present itself in social media.
In Nigeria image is very important, and marketers are looking at consumers at face value and they don’t take time to find out what is going through their minds. The consumer is thinking of representing his/herself in some other places and he is looking beyond what the manufacturer is thinking about. The challenge for the marketer therefore is to recognise that the Nigerian consumer is very complex.
What has changed about advertising in the last 10 years?
A lot. If you go back 10 years, the internet was tiny, mobile phone was just a phone. What has changed is media channel through which advertising content is delivered to consumers. But if you look at what advertising content is, it is still effective and makes impact, useful and interesting. For instance, which brands get the most likes on social media; it is the big brands that have created the strong connection with their consumers. Some brands still want to join the trend in social media without understanding it, they will be better off focusing on the basics and making sure that what their brands stand for is meaningful to the consumers, it is then when they will decide which media platform is most appropriate.
Throw more light on new ways of measuring brand equity?
We launched our approach to measuring brand equity in 1996. This is a long time now, but 2010 a colleague and I started to review all our materials on how brands grow financial value. We reached out to academics and also talked to MillwardBrown’s clients around the world, and we are lucky enough working with 90 percent of leading brands such as Google, Coke, Kellogs, Haier. To talk to marketers like that and to check with them, whether the learning and understanding of how to develop strong brands was relevant in today’s world, especially with the emergence of digital, social media world.
From that, we have developed a new construct framework for building strong brands and applying it to the brands equity solution. There are three key components to any brand that is successful and growing financial value. First is meaningful – they don’t just meet people’s functional needs but strike an emotional cord with the consumer. Secondly, there is the difference. In many countries, marketers are perhaps under estimating the powers of being different because competition is so fierce and as they introduce some functional advantage, it is matched by the competition.
One of the clients we talked to is Diageo and brand director for the company said the important thing is to maintain the feeling of difference. It is not just the physical difference, but the brand is different in people’s heads. Thirdly, a lot of neuroscience works people are doing on how people relate to brands suggests that it is very important how salient a brand is. This suggests how quickly a brand comes to mind not in the contest of purchase decision. In order words, you can preempt competitors by being simply first in mind.
Why spend so much to measure brand equity? Where does the brand live?
The company puts so much in producing a product and service and says different things about itself, but at the end the brand lives in consumers head. The population shapes the brand, and so if a marketer really wants to drive value by creating a strong relationship with their customer, they have to know what is in people’s heads. They have to be able to identify which ideas, associations, feelings are most motivational that motivate people to want to buy brands and willing to pay more money for a brand.
Are drivers for motivation linked to measuring brand equity?
It does. Our neuroscience unit exists for several years. One of the key techniques we use is to look at the salient and how quickly ideas come in to people’s heads in relation to different brands. When we were doing the pilot study for the brand equity research, we did a parallel study using some of our neuroscience techniques. It is a technique that when somebody sees brands what ideas come immediately into his/her head. We use neuroscience as a diagnostic method.
How does consumer research create value?
The job of marketers is to create value by meeting people’s needs, and also to anticipate their needs. Consumers can only tell you certain things and they only see the world they know today, but one of the jobs of market research include to understand how consumers view the world and the brands in that world, and how well they are meeting their needs. Particularly through qualitative research understand what the opportunities are to meet unmet needs and understand what even the people don’t recognise themselves.
With that information, marketers would then be more strategic. The other of side of equation for market research is consumer insight that is marketing more efficiently, to know where to place advertising and how to market to assess how well different advertising executions are leveraging the media money the clients spend.
What are additions to your products on the table?
There is more focus now than it was before. One of the big challenges for anybody in market research around the world is that time is disappearing from people’s lives.
They spend time on traffic and on phone, and no time to sleep, so we have to make the questions we ask people as few as possible.