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Facebook head of brand gives her top three tips for building brand in the digital age


Facebook head of brand gives her top three tips for building brand in the digital age


Marketers too focused on short-term metrics will soon feel the consequences, Facebook’s Naomi Shepherd tells Marketing. Organisations need to involve the whole team on the brand building journey.

Naomi-Shepherd 150 BWEarlier this month Facebook and Deloitte launched their ‘Shared stories: building brands in the digital age’ report, assessing that far too few marketers are paying enough attention to brand. The report found that only 17% of Australian marketers focus on building brand, and more than a quarter think their brand has stagnated or declined in the last year.

According to Facebook’s head of brand Naomi Shepherd, the report was borne out of internal frustration – the social media giant had noticed a lack of consensus around brand building in the industry, and decided to enlist Deloitte’s help in establishing some clarity.

Shepherd, a self-professed brand nerd, has been with Facebook since 2012 in a variety of roles. Lately her time is increasingly dedicated to encouraging creative agencies to “think about their big ideas becoming bigger through our platforms, rather than their big ideas becoming smaller and more niche.”

She says brands should be paying close attention to changing behaviours in a mobile-centric marketing environment. Also, drawing from the report’s results, Shepherd says many marketers are too caught up in measuring short term metrics at the expense of the long term.

Marketing caught up with Shepherd to dive deeper into the issues marketers are having with brand building, social brand positioning, omni-channel distribution and dog selfies.


Marketing: Why does brand seem to fascinate you so much?

Naomi Shepherd, head of brand and group industry director ANZ: I don’t know, I’m a bit obsessed with it actually. Even in my own personal life I tend not to buy generic products – I really am very into the whole brand thing and have spent a very long time in advertising, so I understand all the nuances of what brands are trying to do and how they are trying to make people feel. I just find it very interesting, a bit of a brand nerd, I guess.


The report is all about marketers not focusing enough on brand, has the focus fallen off or has there always been a neglect for branding?

It’s been slipping away, and you’ll see that come through in the research.

It’s not that it isn’t important to marketers, it just isn’t paid the same importance as a couple of the other metrics around sales and conversions – so we’re starting to see it decrease over time. I think there’s still definitely a place for brand for all marketers, and they are definitely thinking about it, it’s just where it’s sitting on the pecking order right now that is a little concerning.

But I think the positive aspect of this whitepaper is that it shows that there’s a huge desire for change to bring brand back up to the top of the agenda, and one of the things that the whitepaper starts to explore is: if you’re thinking about bringing brand back up to the top of your agenda today, how differently does that look to how it might have looked like a few years ago?

Is the digital era starting to change the way your brands are being built? And the answer is: yeah, it is.


What are marketers focusing too much on, if not brand?

I don’t think they want to, but I think they are focusing – by nature of some significant business challenges in the short term – on things like sales, conversions and downloads; pick a short-term metric. I think they’re focused more on that than they are on the long term. But what we are certainly sensing is that there’s a bit of a frustration that they are having to focus on those things, and so they want the pendulum to swing back – where there’s even more of an even swing between short and long term metrics.

Short term metrics aren’t bad things, they’re healthy. It’s good to be able to check the pulse of your campaign or a few of the things that you’re doing with your brand and your marketing investments. But ultimately, you have to be focused on the long term as well.

We like to say, ‘you’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time.’


Facebook has spoken quite a bit about omni-channel distribution, are some channels more valuable than others?

I’m going to give you the most frustrating answer of all, which is: it really depends.

It depends on what your objective is and it depends on whether you have a lot of awareness in the market already for your product or service. I think one thing that comes out of this paper quite clearly is that it is no longer just the job of one or two channels to bring your brand to life, or to be able to invest in some pretty healthy long term brand building – it’s always going to take more than that.

It’s going to take four or more channels in order for that to happen. And that is by nature of not the media environment, but consumer behaviour.

For all of us, our attention is fragmented across many different things, now more than before. It’s funny, all of these behaviours are just so inherent – you sit in front of the TV, you look at your phone. We talk about it all the time, but this [report] really just starts to put some stats behind it so we can say, ‘it’s okay, we know that these behaviours are happening’. We know that behaviour is changing and the way that it manifests itself in a brand marketing strategy is that you now need to have multiple channels in order to bring that to life.


Can you talk about a campaign on Facebook that has really excited you this year?

So there were two, and I don’t have recency bias, they really are two of my favourites.

One is the Toyota ‘Drive Happy Project’, which actually came out in New Zealand – that was one of our creative strategists from Facebook working with the creative agency over there.

I love it because it is an excellent cinema ad, it is an excellent TV ad and it is equally a brilliant mobile branding campaign. Those ‘bothers’ will come to life in so many different ways, and I love how they were so thoughtful about how it could extend a brand platform like ‘Drive Happy’, which can really exist anywhere: in dealerships, in TV and radio – but they thought about how they could extend that brand platform across geographies, across demographics and across time by using our platforms.


The other was of course, ‘Selfie Stix’.

Honestly, you just can’t go passed it. I’m a dog lover: Mr Winston is a 13 year old french bulldog who hates taking selfies. He’s a little jerk, he won’t look at the camera. But he likes ‘Dental Stix’ from Pedigree, so that’s good.

And the other one is the AirBnB ‘Until we all belong’ campaign. That one was around Australian marriage equality, with a ring that didn’t quite meet in the middle. The reason I love that idea is: the brand put this idea out there that was really important to a lot of Australians, and then took a step back and let the communities on places like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram be able to bring that to life in their own communities.

acceptance ring

AirBnB’s acceptance ring: representing the “gap in marriage equality that we need to close.”

So rather than AirBnB just pushing it out there and saying, ‘here’s our message’, it allowed people to take that very important message around Australian marriage equality and bring it into their own cohorts and their own communities and let it become a living breathing thing there. That’s an excellent example of how our platforms can be used to bring creative ideas to life – if you’ve got an idea as a brand, you can say it.


What do you make of brands positioning themselves around social issues?

You have to be careful, don’t you? Afdhel Aziz talks about Good is the New Cool, which is the idea of a brand doing something that’s good for the world, but also remaining commercially viable. So how do you do something that’s important for communities, the environment or the world, but actually as a business still make something commercial out of it?

The best example I see are brands that put the message out there and then almost take a bit of a step back, letting the community take it forward. Walmart is a great example of that, it just did a huge campaign around hurricane relief, about nine or 10 months ago, encouraging people to donate toward helping impacted families. But it didn’t just put it out there and continually push it ‘from Walmart’, it let all of the enthusiasts, employees and customers be able to extend that message across many different platforms, ours included.


Do you have any actionable tips for marketers?

I have three:

  1. Look at your work on a mobile phone. It’s really not that hard, just do it. So often you present these formats and you’re watching them with a big screen in a dark room with the sound on – and that is not at all in tune with your consumer, who is likely to being exposed to your brand in a spectrum of ways. One of them is on the bus, on a commute in the morning when they’re going to work – and they don’t have the sound on, but they’re still really engrossed in what you’re telling them. Just look at it on a mobile phone.
  2. Really think very hard about how you balance those short term and long term metrics.
  3. Everyone in your organisation needs to bought into brand and bought into what the value of brand building means to your organisation. Get people on the brand building journey.


The author of this article attended Facebook Australia and Deloitte’s ‘Building Brand in the Digital Age’ event as a guest of Facebook.



 Image credit: Diego Jimenez

Josh Loh

Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au

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