Brand identity versus conglomerate identity and the enhancement effect of digital

Historically, there has been a wariness in the consumer products industry (CP) to fully integrate their customer experience across the company, with conglomerates choosing instead to emphasise the unique traits of each individual brand.

Diageo, for instance, took a more devolved approach within their whisky portfolio to highlight the unique nature of each individual brand, as in the case of Dalwhinnie, Oban and Talisker. The general belief was that by distancing themselves from the individual products, they could better reinforce each brand’s specific identity and unique selling points (USPs).

The advent of digital, however, provides an opportunity to completely re-think this traditional approach to the industry, by engaging with consumers across a variety of channels. The breadth of interaction offered by multi-channel allows conglomerates to build separate brand and company identities. This trait, combined with the ability to leverage big data and the ability to interact directly with customers to completely restructure the traditional consumer/supplier relationship in CP, enhancing the customer experience on many levels.

The 1-5-10 explosion

In our digital age, consumers are able to directly interact with companies regardless of how the companies attempt to structure the consumer relationship. Indeed, some companies and analysts have even suggested that digital would inspire a “1-5-10 explosion” in digital sales in the consumer products market.

Currently, digital sales account for around 1% of the CP market, and the expectation is that this figure will grow to 5% initially, and then to a whopping 10% within the next decade, marking an increasingly steep upwards trajectory. This prediction clearly reinforces the sheer potential within the market for any company willing to embrace the advantages offered by an integrated approach to digital strategy.

Multi-channel connectivity

An obvious win for CP companies is re-thinking the engagement channels between company and customer. The emergence of multi-channel connectivity provides conglomerates with the means to directly target consumers cutting across varying demographics, communities and personae.

A simple example here would be Virgin Media targeting families through TV advertising whilst Toms shoes targeting Millennials through social media. Multi-channel connectivity offers enormous potential as it compiles, analyses and optimises the information gained from digital data mining. By interacting with customers across multiple channels, companies can not only maximise their customer engagement but can leverage the resulting wealth of customer data and information.

Moreover, the advent of multi-channel allows companies to target consumers with more effective interactions throughout the end-to-end customer journey. Customer engagement, therefore, is no longer a simple two-way relationship funnelled through a single channel. Instead, it is about reaching the customer using with the most effective interaction, through the most appropriate channel/s at the most opportune time.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and analytics

Traditionally, performance has been tracked against historical metrics and market research. This, in combination with volumes sold, was seen to be sufficient in understanding the performance of individual brands. However, the vast amount of data now available has reduced the importance of these historic KPIs and instead provides an opportunity for targeted customer marketing. This can be done through the analysis of data points as varied as click-throughs on advertisements, through to hits on a particular website. It can also offer greater efficiency in the supply chain itself, as end-to-end product creation and delivery become increasingly digitally driven.

This potential has not gone unnoticed in the industry, with Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently announcing a substantial new analytics strategy in an attempt to leverage their ‘big data’. This re-contextualising of KPIs supported by investment in a more coherent analytics approach provides CP companies with a better understanding of customer growth areas and individual customer trends.

Moreover, a coherent analytics implementation supports and facilitates more efficient supply chain management, by providing information as varied as seasonal fluctuations in product consumption, product wastage, through to the most effective methods of getting products to consumers.

Brand identity meets company identity

Increasingly, digital provides opportunities for conglomerates to build a single company identity, bucking the previously-mentioned CP trend towards discretion and emphasis on product offerings.

A great example of a CP firm beginning to promote this ‘company identity’ is the 2016 P&G campaign, “Thank You, Mum”. This campaign was launched to advertise the importance of their products to families across the world, specifically to coincide with mothers’ day. By creating a campaign that highlights both the universal and personal nature of the services offered, conglomerates can develop a marketing strategy of their core company whilst simultaneously reinforcing a positive identity of each individual brand.

A more centralised approach to marketing, as well as analysis of successful campaigns across differing products and markets, can allow companies to align global marketing strategies and leverage big data in a wholesome fashion. Conglomerates that work in a more decentralised fashion risk struggling to fully realise the advantages offered by a more holistic approach in a digitally driven world.

What would the companies leveraging the above advantages look like?

Ultimately, a separate brand and company identity allows conglomerates to interact with consumers across a number of levels, and consequently offer a better customer experience. Multi-channel connectivity provides the breadth of communication to facilitate this relationship without the consumer becoming saturated with one identity over the other (or both).

Enhancing this new structure with the ability to leverage “big data” and provide a more nuanced market offering to customers is a genuine game-changer in an industry traditionally one-step removed from the customer. As such, any company able to embrace these varied enhancements would surely find themselves offering a better customer experience, genuinely exploiting “the age of digital”, and increasingly reaping the benefits of digital in an increasingly competitive CP sector.