Brands need a human touch in a digital world

Dr. Niels Neudecker
Vice President, Head of Global Connect Centre
Kantar TNS

Interactions between brands and consumers have multiplied in many ways because of technology. People interact with brands through mobile apps, social networks, chat bots, and intelligent personal assistants like Alexa and Siri. Some brands dream of building 100% digital relationships with their consumers under the pretext of searching for a direct, personalized and permanent relationship.

Do marketers think a digital experience is the only thing consumers want? We doubt it! Even technology brands like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple understand the importance of personal, real world experiences. Just think of the importance of the iconic Apple stores. And, Facebook has billboard ads placed at bus stations to show people how its calendar function can help develop relevant relationships in the real world.

Even in a digitally sophisticated environment, being human is essential in brand equity building. The expertise of Kantar TNS shows strong evidence that a brand's "experiential" points of contact, either through personal interaction or the product experience, always play a major role in brand equity building. Kantar's Connect database, with over 75,000 touchpoint evaluations, reveals that experiential contacts contribute up to nearly 50% to brand desirability.

A recent study for a confectionary brand showed that offering to taste one of their products in coffee bars and restaurants contributes up to 20% in the activation of its desirability. It is hard to imagine that online banner ads can replace the multisensory and social experience people will have in real life.

The Connect touchpoint studies reveal that it's important for brands to activate experiential touchpoints along the consumer journey. Marketers must make sure these experiences occur at the right moment, and that they fit the current consumer mindset. A brand's physical and human touchpoints are even more effective if they are integrated across digital. The challenge for marketers is to find a good balance between the two. Today, digital and new technologies must remain the facilitators of continuous real-life interactions, and not become an exclusive way to develop relationships between brands and humans.