Lyft, Dollar Shave Club double down on merging branding and direct response via video
Some brands are accelerating efforts to merge brand-building and direct response on mobile, with video as the glue.
As mobile gadgets become handheld TVs with a wireless link to a cash register, marketers are transforming brand-building content into transactional platforms, with video content providing an emotional draw that can boost results.
Mobile video is growing and marketers are diving in across a wide range of tactics designed to elevate awareness of a brand through entertaining content, from super-short 10-second ad to mini-films like Marriott’s popular "Two Bellmen" series.
As marketers get more adept at video and at engaging mobile users, some are taking their branding efforts one step further by including a direct response angle in their strategies, thereby giving new life to an app and acquiring valuable data that can be used to determine the return on investment for mobile. However, research suggests this is still the exception rather than the rule, despite marketers recognizing that branding and direct response are complementary.
"We are seeing a convergence of direct response and brand strategies in the digital video space,” said Joe Beccalori, chief executive of Interact Marketing in New Windsor, New York. “Marketers are using social media and video to build relational brand equity by rotating about three brand videos to every one direct response or promotional video.”
The power of mobile direct response is well recognized among marketers, but not easy to implement. While two-thirds of marketers see branding and direct response as complementary, only 35% of respondents have “completely aligned” the two initiatives, according to a survey this month by the Mobile Marketing Association and RadiumOne, a San Francisco-based advertising agency.
Marketers said social media is most important for branding campaigns, while direct response initiatives are more focused on people who are repeat buyers, according to the survey. Purchase data is the most popular way to measure the effectiveness of mobile direct response, with 38% of respondents ranking it as the No. 1 metric.
Video is one tactic that is helping brands merge their branding and direct response efforts on mobile.
Mobile viewers are 80% more likely to respond to a video than to text, said Beccalori, while video consumption has increased as the smartphone market reaches 90% saturation.
Dollar Shave Club, a marketer of personal grooming products, is a former “direct-response purist” whose mobile app, released this year, has a strong element of brand-building, he noted.
The app features weekly video content and topical, punchy articles on topics from proper grooming techniques to general health and wellness. The content is an addition to typical transactional-based offerings like signing up to receive monthly razor shipments, adjusting delivery frequency, switching razor choices, buying additional items and sending a gift.
“This weekly dose of video branding is creating engagement with consumers, too, with some weekly videos topping 150,000 views,” Beccalori said.
A key reason for the push into mobile video is the immediate measurability that smartphones provide.
“With digital advertising and mobile, in particular, all marketers are required to produce tangible, measurable results,” said Jasper Radeke, director of North America marketing for AppsFlyer, an Israel-based mobile attribution and marketing data analytics company. “Major brands are becoming very savvy when it comes to combining content-driven mobile marketing with more traditional direct response tactics.”
User behavior can be measured in many ways, such as the frequency and time spent with the content, social media shares with friends and followers, likes and purchases.
“Our projection is that we'll see more and more of such use cases — where apps provide custom/interactive experiences based on measurable user activity,” Radeke said.
Lyft Inc., the ride-hailing service that’s available in more than 130 U.S. cities, tried an experiment to re-work its video brand awareness ads to drive a simple transaction: a free download of its mobile app.
The company found that a brand awareness video ad featuring former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal had better results than its direct-response video that didn’t have a celebrity.
“The Shaq ad, for example received 8% higher clickthrough rates than Lyft's traditional direct response ad and a similar conversion rate to those ads that were designed specifically to drive conversions, or installs,” Aman Govil, head of the art, copy and code projects team at Google, wrote in a blog post in March about Lyft’s efforts. “The lesson here: Make sure to test and learn how all your creative performs on various metrics.”
A natural fit
The role of the brand message drives decisions on creative elements to include in a marketing campaign, said David Griffith, chief strategy officer of Seattle-based agency POP, via email.
“There is no reason brand-oriented videos cannot also handle the hard work of direct response,” Griffith continued. “All direct response strategy should consider an approach that includes brand imagery or messaging. Will that always mean video content? Perhaps not.”
He said online media gives marketers more freedom than the confines of a 15- or 30-second spot that characterizes broadcast video.
“If you want to add a call action to your spot designed to run on TV you can do so without cutting out the heart of the creative idea,” Griffith said. “As long as it is done in a way that feels natural rather than ‘Frankensteining’ it, the video should perform great as both a brand message and direct response piece.”
Viewers of mobile video are remarkably open to seeing ads, and they don’t mind a little irreverence, Interact Marketing’s Beccalori said.
“Brands should stay within the general boundaries of their core image and messaging strategies,” he said. “Content that is humorous, fun or sometimes even a little weird seems to perform better for most consumer brands.”
Meanwhile, social media platforms like Facebook are rapidly evolving into major purveyors of mobile video. Last year, 85% of videos that appear on Facebook were originally posted on its platform, compared with only 10% of videos that first appeared on YouTube, according to Quintly, a social media analytics firm based in Cologne, Germany.
“Especially through Facebook Live videos, Facebook users — consisting of private accounts and businesses – have the ability to directly engage with their audience by discussing topics in real-time,” Nils Herrman, communications manager at Quintly, wrote in a blog post in March. “It is crucial to implement Facebook Live to your Facebook campaign to reach and engage the audience you are targeting.”
Mobile video advertising will continue to develop as the technology improves and high-speed bandwidth allows for better connectivity with customers.
“Video remains a highly effective format on mobile both for advertising and other content because it's well understood both by advertisers and the audience,” AppFlyer’s Radeke said. "It's going to be interesting to see how the removal of technical limitations, from compression to the length of ad units, and the continuing evolution of mobile usage overall impact its use by both groups."