In a retail and marketing environment where pundits have predicted a full-on “retail apocalypse,” it’s clear that changes are afoot across earned media, social media and influencer marketing. The ShareIQ platform is designed to help brands understand and optimize their earned media performance, and how to plan what to do next. Likewise, I’d like to help everyone in the industry reexamine what we’ve learned up to this point and identify some lessons for what to do next, as we begin a new year.
Until very recently, brands have hewn to a pretty tried and true formula to attract new customers. As marketing guru Scott Galloway of L2 has said, the CPG industry was created on a foundation of television advertising. Giants like P&G, Unilever and Clorox sold products with mass market appeal: everybody needed paper towels, toothpaste and soap. Using TV to build these businesses worked for decades. It still works to some degree but we’re starting to see cracks in that foundation.
The first crack is being made by challenger brands, the smaller upstart companies who don't have the mindset, budget or headcount to operate under the old model, and are finding new pathways to drive discovery and sales. They've learned to be innovative at a time where many of their incumbent competitors are doubling down on doing things they way they always have. Advertising spend continues to grow year over year, but the effectiveness of that ad spend is, in many cases, in decline.
In a world with thousands of screens and channels and the widest range of audience quality, traditional brands often scramble to engage consumers with paid media at scale. Over the past several years, marketers have begun to appreciate the growing audience on social media and the potential for brand conversations and one-to-one relationships with customers. They got the broad strokes right but the details wrong. The reality is that those channels have predominantly been used to create community, to enable consumers to complain about bad experiences and products, or to sign up for promotions. Many brands didn’t take into account the potential power of social networks to drive earned media brand discovery and product purchase.
The currency on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram isn’t conversation but rather it’s all of the eminently sharable user-generated and brand-produced imagery. The pathway of that visual content is now trackable through tools like ShareIQ’s. We help brands fine-tune their earned media strategy by visualizing what content drives the most discovery, how and why it gets discovered, and what imagery is effective for driving awareness or purchase.
Challenger brands -- and savvier traditional ones -- now understand the value of original content for creating earned media opportunities across image-centric social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. In 2018 and beyond we’ll see marketers building on that analytical foundation and invest further in optimizing their earned media programs.
Tools like ours help brands deepen their understanding of the value of their content, and we’ll lead the evolution of image intelligence from a descriptive technology into one that is predictive. Our platform can already uniquely reverse-image match against one trillion images and growing to identify brand-related content. But marketers will ask deeper questions about what’s working, what’s not and why. Questions like, “which influencers are helping drive brand discovery and product purchase, which publishers are best for my content, which collections of images perform better, what are my competitors doing better than I am?”
The next year (and beyond) will be exciting times for earned media, social media and influencer marketing. If the past is any indicator, the retail and marketing industries will continue to see upheaval, but we look forward to using the prescriptive and predictive power of our earned media insights to tell brands not to worry, here’s what they should do next.