Many corporate leaders are still reluctant to change their marketing approaches for the sake of social networking, according to a new national survey. Most corporate brand executives believe they are better served by effectively utilizing online communications and traditional public relations activities in order to build brand awareness among consumers: their key objective.


Seventy percent of brand experts say they cannot successfully manage their brands without an effective online strategy and more than two-thirds (68 percent) characterize online communications as the most valuable vehicle for generating awareness and brand loyalty among consumers. Most feel their own websites are the key vehicle for reaching consumers and building loyalty.


Opinions are split on the marketing effect of social media, however, according to a survey of brand executives commissioned by MiresBall, a West Coast-based brand design firm, and conducted by Washington, D.C.-based KRC Research.


While approximately half (52 percent) of those surveyed see social media as a way to build brand awareness among consumers who were previously unreachable, and more than a third (35 percent) believe that social media is making it easier to create customer loyalty, nearly as many (30 percent) disagree that building customer loyalty has become easier because of social networking.


At the same time, four in 10 (41 percent) of those surveyed feel the impact of social media is not serious enough to lead to a change in brand strategy, while roughly the same number believe that social media presents new challenges for protecting a brand’s integrity, challenges that necessitate a change in strategy.


 “Social media could be the next frontier for brand communications since nearly 80 percent of brand leaders expect to use it in their brand building activities in the next two years, but for now, marketers are struggling to figure it out,” says John Ball, Principal and Creative Director, MiresBall. “In the meantime, brands that continue to share authentic and relevant stories with their audiences—regardless of the vehicle—will continue to connect more successfully with their audiences.”


Other survey highlights:

·         The top three challenges facing brands today are pricing pressures, lack of brand awareness and rise of strong competitors;

·         Traditional public relations activities provide the best value for time (48 percent strongly agree) and money (35 percent strongly agree) invested for brand building, while fewer respondents said advertising produces the best value for time (31 percent) and budget (24 percent) dedicated to brand building;

·         Respondents said that online communications provide the best return on the money spent managing their brand (68 percent), followed by public relations/promotional events (56 percent) and social media (40 percent).

·         Nearly half of marketers surveyed agreed that the economic downturn made it more difficult to create brand loyalty (48 percent), while just over a third (35 percent) used the downturn to their advantage.