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Today, we’re excited to release our findings from our inaugural BMV Digital Brand: Awareness, Engagement & Action Index. The report surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in the 1H of 2019 — weighted for U.S. population — to discover how brands garner attention and drive purchases online, while also examining consumer viewpoints on digital channels and uncovering how trust is earned in the fake news era.

2019 marks the first year that digital marketing and advertising spend will outpace analog marketing spend across traditional channels such as TV, radio, and newspapers. This gives digitally native, challenger brands the opportunity to effectively compete with legacy companies on their own digital turf. However, the creation of innumerable open platforms to increase awareness creates oversaturation, and therefore, a battle for attention online and a question amongst CMOs of where to allocate marketing budgets. In addition, the proliferation of fake news is exacerbating the distrust of media coverage, content and the brands associated with it.

According to our Index, earned media is the number one way consumers say they discover products online, with 30% of respondents saying that a digital news article is typically how they hear about new products and services online. Furthermore, consumers say news articles are also the most impactful in shaping their buying decisions.

In fact, news articles came out ahead of positive social media posts on a product or service from friends and family (28%) as being the most impactful for driving a buying decision. Meanwhile, while 29% of consumers admitted that social and digital ads drive their awareness of new products, only 12% said a positive mention of a brand in a digital or social ad influences their buying decision.

“While there’s little doubt that brands must look beyond telling their story exclusively through traditional PR and earned media in our digital age, the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of social media advertising, branded content creation, and paid influencer endorsements,” said Kyle Austin, Founder and Managing Partner of BMV. “The fake news era has created an appetite among consumers for trustworthy information from credible media outlets. As a byproduct, digital news articles are driving product awareness, and ultimately purchases, more effectively than other digital alternatives that have been commanding large budgets as of late.” 

Other highlights from our Digital Brand Index include:

  • Younger consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) say that they’re most likely to learn about new consumer products from social media and digital advertisements (35%).
  • Compared to consumer products and services, branded content (company blog, social media, video) came in much higher (27%) as the way potential buyers say they discover B2B products vs. B2C products online (13%).
  • Nearly ⅓ of consumers (32%) say they follow and consume branded social media content simply because it’s interesting and engaging.
  • 86% of consumers say fake news is a problem online today.
  • However, nearly half of consumers (49%) say fake news is most likely to appear first on and spread from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube rather than spreading from national news sites (20%).
  • 3 out of 4 consumers say they are at least sometimes dissuaded from doing business with a company that they believe/know has been collecting data on them for advertising purposes.

“While our index indicates that brands are likely undervaluing the sales impact of media relations in the digital age, the difficulty in achieving earned media in today’s 86,400-second news cycle means brands must also be able to create compelling stories across owned channels, by leveraging influencers, and through social ads,” said John Eidson, VP of Content & Strategy at BMV. “This is especially true in driving awareness and engagement with younger demographics. In contrast with other generations, Gen Z and millennials say that they’re most likely to learn about consumer products from social media advertisements, and 40% of them say they follow and consume a brand’s social media account just because it’s interesting.”

Be sure to check out the full report here.

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