Thursday, October 6, 2011

All moments of truth build a brand

You will probably have heard of the first and second moments of truth as publicized by Procter & Gamble (P&G), but how about the zero moment of truth? According to Google, the zero moment of truth inserts itself between the priming moments of traditional media, and the decision making moments at the point of purchase. The zero moment of truth is the result of online searching and sharing conducted when someone is actively engaged with shopping the category.
To be honest, my initial reaction to the concept of the zero moment of truth was: Well, duh!
If marketers have not woken up to the fact that shoppers now actively search for information and advice prior to making a purchase, then they must have been asleep for the last decade. But Google proposes that on average, the zero moment is the most relevant of all the moments. Is that really true?
I think the answer depends on the brand and category. For a higher interest or risk category, like cars, banks and hotels, then I have little doubt that the zero moment of truth is a pivotal point in the purchase process, helping to consolidate initial impressions of a brand gained elsewhere. But does that model apply to a TV program, a soft drink or breakfast cereal? Most people don’t bother to research purchases like these, they just try them.
More importantly, while simple and nicely presented, the Google video views the world from the point of view of a first purchase, and seems to ignore the interaction between the priming, seeking and confirming moments. We know from integrating tracking and search data that highly visible broadcast advertising dramatically improves search results for the advertised brand. And no amount of seeking is going to undo the effect of a disappointing second moment of truth. Bad experiences undermine every other moment of truth.
Gordon Pincott, Chairman Global Solutions at Millward Brown, proposes that individual brand relationships do not evolve slowly, but are the result of snapshot shifts in response to specific brand encounters. Any encounter with a brand could be make or break, be it first, zero or second. This makes far more sense to me than a linear model of decision making, and fits far better with the complexity of today’s markets and media (see Sue Elms’ POV, "Integrated Planning: Standing Out in The Cloud," for another take on this issue).
In the context of a non-linear world, the art of marketing is to ensure that all moments of truth deliver a coherent and positive impression of the brand. You cannot guarantee which brand encounter will prove to be a moment of truth. All you can do is try to ensure as many people as possible are positively predisposed to buy the brand, and then find the proof they need to confirm that feeling when it comes to making a decision to purchase.
So what do you think of the zero moment of truth? Please share your thoughts.

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