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Brand and transactional marketing are no longer distinct stages in the customer journey

Ed Dziedzic, Laura Smith

Marketing has undergone significant changes over the last few years, driven by advancements in technology and measurement and changes in consumer behavior. Today’s data and analytics tools enable marketers to better understand the customer journey, track campaign performance, measure ROI, and uncover attribution. But even with all this information, how can marketers build a brand while moving the sales needle?

Historically, brand messaging and transactional messaging served different purposes, each targeting distinct stages of the customer journey. Brand-building efforts focus on reaching new customers and reminding current customers why they love the brand. This is accomplished through brand storytelling, shaping perceptions, and fostering emotional connection.

Brand marketers use a small arsenal of metrics to measure brand awareness, recall, and associations, and analyze sentiment rather than track immediate sales. Marketers often view these important efforts as a tradeoff to communications that chase after lower funnel activities. Afterall, ROI will always be a Chief Marketing Officer’s favorite KPI.

Conversely, transactional strategy and educational messaging to increase understanding is viewed as the “workhorse”—the conduit to converting prospects into buyers. This is accomplished through a number of tactics like promotions, discounts, and Limited Time Offers to incentivize quick decisions. Transactional metrics can tell the immediate story of conversions, click throughs, return on ad spend (ROAS), and other direct response metrics.

Marketers socialize (and merchandise) the associated performance data to sales teams and leadership, with transactional tactics like paid search the star of the show. Corporate stakeholders tangibly see the conversions and tracking, and any mention of brand advertising is in the rearview mirror.

And yet, throughout all this transactional data, where is the brand love?

Today’s brand marketer knows the power of harnessing both brand and transactional messaging. With a shift towards a more customer-centric approach to marketing, there is a focus on building emotional loyalty with customers rather than solely promoting a product or service. As we strive to deliver personalized experiences, address the needs of customers, and engage in two-way communications, brand and transactional messaging become intertwined experiences working in tandem to elevate the brand-consumer relationship. Every piece of communication contributes to an assessment of brand.

What do consumers want?

Successful brands actively deliver their value proposition while meeting the unique needs of consumers along the journey. This includes enhanced messaging that connects through shared beliefs across all integrating marketing activities. Giving consumers a sense of comfort and control throughout can make all the difference in accelerating initial and repeat purchasing decisions.

In our recent study, consumers stated that values and beliefs are critically important to them. Consumers don’t merely purchase products or services; they integrate brands into their personal identities. These active participants also tend to be a brand’s most loyal and valuable customers, and uncovering these values and beliefs is essential to informing creative messaging that resonates. Brands must connect with consumers by investing time to understand what is most important to them and then act on those insights.

In today’s market landscape, where 81% of consumers prioritize a brand’s value and beliefs, Brands can’t overlook the significance of forging emotional connections.

Not acting on these truths comes at a cost. A lack of shared values is the #1 reason consumers stop buying from a brand. Successful brands will communicate values and beliefs clearly for consumers to reduce friction on the path to purchase. Doing this in a way that demonstrates honesty, which 57% of consumers rank as the most important value, is critical.

How brands can do more with less

In this challenging current economic landscape, brand marketers must do more with less as sales goals increase while marketing budgets fall. A brand’s integrated marketing strategy is often the main amplifier of brand values and emotional connections with audiences, and it is the investment that must yield an increasing return.

When done right, brand strategies in concert with transactional executions perform seamless heavy-lifting—working to deliver authentic, relevant messaging that informs and educates while building emotional loyalty that stands the test of time.

With the increase of digital channels and the always-on mentality, consumers constantly redefine their individual customer journeys. Brands must reframe their messages and tailor them to each unique customer, wherever they are on their brand journey.

Brands that adapt how they engage with customers and weave the brand ethos into their value proposition to be relevant will win with consumers and stakeholders. Even if you think your values align with your customers, it’s time to take a fresh look.