Brands need to be more human on social media

December 7, 2017
Industry News
Content Provided By:

Kantar Millward Brown
Nigel Hollis - Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst

[email protected]

An examination of Facebook and Instagram campaigns measured by Kantar Millward Brown finds longer-term brand impact is boosted when brands communicate in a more personable and human way. How do you do that? Think of the audience as human beings to be engaged not targets to be cajoled.

In mid-November, Kantar Millward Brown held its “Social Media, Deal or No Deal?” event at the Soho Hotel in London. Over 100 attendees saw Professor Andrew Stephen of the Said Business School at Oxford University present findings from two studies: his meta-analysis of Kantar Millward Brown’s global digital effectiveness MarketNorms data over the last seven years, and his analysis of our Facebook/Instagram effectiveness norms data over the last two years.
The Facebook/Instagram analysis, which is the first time such research has been undertaken, examined a total of 235 global campaigns across 110 different brands. These campaigns were 80 percent video (vs 20 percent display), and all mobile. Natural Language Processing provided additional analysis of the brands’ own Facebook posts.

Here are the key findings from the two studies:
  1. Social media can drive long-term brand impact, particularly in salience (ad awareness and brand awareness), and most campaigns have a positive impact on brand KPIs but there is a huge range between the most and least effective campaigns.
  2. Brands that communicate in their own Facebook/Instagram posts using ‘human’ language, tapping into people’s emotions and avoiding the more functional words and phrases, tend to also be those brands that perform well in the brand impact of their advertising.
  3. Desktop isn’t dead. The average lift for brand KPIs on desktop is now the same as mobile, as the impact of mobile advertising has declined from its peak, and desktop is still heavily used for some categories, e.g. travel.
We have seen elsewhere that there can be a huge range in campaign effectiveness but the intriguing finding is that it is brands that already communicate more humanly in social media that tend to also have more effective ad campaigns. The research found success has nothing to do with factors such as industry category, geography, format or the number of creative types used.

These findings confirm that a deep understanding and empathy toward your target audience is critical to all advertising success. It does not matter what medium you talk about, people simply respond more readily to a brand when all its communication resonates with their own values, interests and feelings. This is perhaps even more true in social media where people go to connect with friends and family not brands, so a brand that communicates more like a friend than a salesperson will likely gain attention more easily. But what do you think? Are there any surprises from the research findings? Please share your thoughts at Nigel Hollis’s blog.

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About Kantar MillwardBrown
Kantar Millward Brown is a leading global research agency specialising in advertising effectiveness, strategic communication, media and digital, and brand equity research. The company helps clients grow great brands through comprehensive research-based qualitative and quantitative solutions. Kantar Millward Brown operates in more than 55 countries and is part of WPP’s Kantar group, one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies. Learn more at