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BynderOnBrand Top Brand Differentiator Feb2020Brands spend a lot of time finding ways to earn the trust and the ever-so fragile loyalty of customers. With so much effort put into winning and retaining customers, a new report from Bynder looks at what brands think will help them stand apart from the competition in 2020.

User experience (UX) is cited as the top brand differentiator this year by the largest share (28.6%) of the more than 1,000 marketing and branding professionals surveyed, who were given a list of 5 differentiators to choose from. Not surprisingly then, a little more than a third (34.2% share) of respondents say their main plan to differentiate their brand this year (from a list of 5, again) is by improving or optimizing the user experience.

Although UX professionals are excited about trends such as AI and voice interfaces that are expected to affect UX in the next few years, the discipline is not without its challenges. Not only has UX design been an issue for some years, but it also remains an area where companies have experienced a skills gap.

Meanwhile, superior product innovation is another key aspect for brand differentiation, as cited by 21.3% share of respondents, on par with the share that believe brand authenticity (21.2%) will be the biggest factor.

Fewer respondents chose visual brand identity (18.5%) or emerging channels (11.3%) as their top-perceived differentiator this year.

Branded Content Efforts to Rise

Looking at their own plans, respondents see a keen role for increased branded content efforts, with this not quite as important as the user experience, but likely to play more of a role than the activation of brand advocates or technology innovation.

With that in mind the majority of marketing and branding professionals report they plan to either invest the same amount (26.8% share) or more (54.2%) in branded visual content this year than they did in 2019.

As part of this investment in content, about three-fourths (74.1% share) of respondents say they plan to create up to 50% more content or assets in 2020 compared to what they created last year. Fewer than 1 in 12 (7.8%) say they plan to cut down on the amount of pieces of content they produce relative to last year.

To address the growing demand for content, not only are marketing professionals turning to technology to automate administrative tasks (48.5%), but they also plan to repurpose customer and partner content in more ways (46.9%). Some plan to increase the number of employees to accommodate the number of requests (38.8%) while others plan to go the route of outsourcing, by increasing their collaboration with external agencies and freelancers (47.3%).

Brand Awareness the Top Concern

Previous research has shown that brand awareness is a more important metric to CMOs than ROI. This study lends more weight to the importance placed on awareness: far more respondents (42.9% share) cite growing brand awareness as their biggest brand concern this year than other challenges including measuring marketing value (23.5%). Of note, presented with 5 concerns and asked which led the pack, the fewest (11.5%) respondents pointed to violation of user privacy. This despite separate research indicating that a data breach / misuse of consumer data is the strategic risk that worries CMOs the most.

Perhaps in a nod to the power of social media to hold brands accountable, respondents were far more likely to say that customers (40%) rather than marketing (18%), executive leadership (15%), influencers (14%) or employees (13%) would matter most to brand perception and visibility this year. Indeed, respondents cited social media as the channel that would have the greatest impact on brand visibility and perception.

The full report can be accessed here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,003 marketing and branding professionals from the US and UK fielded in December 2019. Respondents were from a range of disciplines and industries.

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