Can You Build Brand Equity Without Mentioning the Brand?

originally posted on Concept Hub

In short, the answer is no.

However, we now live in a world where people are tuning out commercials and advertisements. Our attention is short and fragmented.

By May 2010, YouTube was exceeding 2 billion views a day. To put that in perspective, the 2011 Super Bowl was the most-watched program ever…with a mere 111 million viewers.

With so many people getting their information online through their social networks the challenge for brands has been how to break through the noise and get their message spread, i.e. go viral.

One of the early viral videos was the Dove commercial which tapped into the existing conversation of a women’s natural beauty compared to the airbrushed distortions of what we see in advertisements that tell us how beautiful we could look. This message was a direct contradiction to what I learned in many of my Marketing classes in college about creating a need to be better. Although the brand was front and center throughout the video, the message was more of a public service announcement than a commercial.

People like to feel good and they like to see the world changing for what they feel is better. The Dove video captured both the element of empowering women to feel good about their image and the idea that the world was becoming more “real.”

However, consider the gum video…I honestly forget what the brand was that produced the incredible video Where the Hell is Matt. Oh! how many people saw that video and had tears in their eyes at the end. What an incredible soundtrack paired with an incredible journey. No one knew it was sponsored by a brand. No brand is mentioned, but our emotions were swept away…until we learned it was all filmed on green screen and sponsored by that gum…what was the brand? Whatever the brand, it left me with a bitter taste.

Many brands are trying to create viral videos that are entertaining. My all-time favorite is…not Old Spice, but Evian’s Roller Babies. I mean not only impressive technology, cuteness, but also a song that brings back memories of my own childhood. I am entertained, but I am not running out to buy a bottle of Evian (or Old Spice). These brands are more top of mind for me, but I am not emotionally connected. I have not seen any numbers about whether or not these videos actually impacted the bottom line of the brands, only the numbers of how viral they were and the lift in awareness. At the end of the day, awareness does not necessarily increase sales.

Today I saw another video, one made in Taiwan with English subtitles. It was posted on Facebook by my friend Toby Bloomberg. The video took me on a journey. Told me a story, and connected me to the characters. At the end, I felt inspired. I felt I had a responsibility, a call to action to answer the question, “what am I living for?” And I felt I had a bank that was by my side who understood life is more than our daily grind. With the very minimum mention of the brand, this video not only raised awareness but also built brand equity with their story. A story that has gone international asking the world the question “What do people live for?” Too bad they’re not in my neighborhood….yet.