In this micro-moments era, it’s paramount to understand the many ways consumers discover new brands, products and services.

So how can marketers effectively engage their target audiences at this early phase of the consumer journey? Here are the five key things you need to know about brand discovery this year.

1. Organic search has blurred the line between brand research and discovery.

Globally, search engines remain the most important source of brand discovery.

37% cite search engines as the main way they find out about new brands, products and services.

While the majority of product searches now start on Amazon, Google continues to see massive surges in “where to buy” mobile searches. This is particularly powerful for brands whose products are not available in online marketplaces like Amazon, brick-and-mortar stores, and brands in new categories.

2. TV ads are still going strong.

TV ads lead the field when it comes to brand discovery, cited by 36% of our respondents as the main way they find out about new products and services.

But TV is even more important than this figure implies because, unlike search engines, it doesn’t rely on any existing need or interest in the product or its category.

There has been a drop in the number of people citing TV ads as their main source of brand discovery, as well as a shift to video on demand and streaming, but other channels are yet to catch up with the medium’s unique qualities.

TV has the ability to create new opportunities. For example, with second-screening now the norm for most consumers, TV and search can complement and support each other strongly.

TV is especially important for baby boomers, who watch it the most, but it’s also very competitive with audiences under 35.This is also the age bracket where the synergy between search and TV is the strongest.

43% of 55-64s mostly discover new brands through TV, as do 33% of 16-24s.

Linear TV is likely to remain the most popular way to consume video content in 2019, even as online video and video-on-demand consumption increases. Most consumers still prefer to unwind in front of the TV set, rather than use their phones and other devices.

Ultimately, as the worlds of linear and OTT entertainment continue to converge over the year ahead, the two are likely to continue to complement each other rather than compete.

3. Ad blocking presents a challenge.

44% are now blocking ads on any device, but almost half (45%) of users who block ads are ‘selective’ when doing so, meaning they may still discover brands via online ads.

Ad effectiveness can’t be addressed without considering the recent rise of ad-blocking.

With approximately 3 in 10 ad-blockers still discovering brands via online ads, this suggests they don’t block every ad on every site they visit.

Frustration is the biggest driver of ad-blocking. 51% of those who use ad-blockers believe that ads are too intrusive, annoying, take up too much screen space or that there are simply too many of them.

On the other hand, privacy remains a smaller concern.

44% tend to opt in for personalized loyalty rewards from brands, while 15% say personalized purchase recommendations on a website are a key way they discover brands.

This also cements how important Amazon and other online traders’ algorithms are in introducing new brands to consumers, entirely outside the ordinary media/advertising ecosystem.

4. Owned content on social media is increasingly important.

The share of people who are most likely to discover brands through recommendations or comments on social media has crept up slowly from 22% to 24% since 2015.

Meanwhile, updates on brands’ social media pages went from 11% to 17% in the same period.

The increased importance of owned pages tracks the development of direct-to-consumer brands, which have seen a huge surge in advertising and business through social media – especially Instagram and picture-sharing sites like Huaban in China.

To some extent, brand discovery on social channels resembles the linear, semi-random nature of TV ads, which are interwoven throughout the content.

As you’d expect, younger audiences over-index on this answer, but “younger” in this case just means under 35 (32%). Older consumers lag behind somewhat, but the cut-off point isn’t until 55-64 years old.

5. Visual culture and visual search increasingly prominent.

Visual platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram naturally lend themselves to introducing new products. Knowing this, many brands are trying to close the gap between discovery and purchase using social-based ecommerce.

The visual search ecosystem is growing rapidly, with innovations from Google, Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and ASOS appearing in just the last year. Pinterest has reported a 100% year-on-year increase in Pinterest Lens users, with 600 million visual searches every month.

A quarter of all internet users have watched a video made by a brand in the past month.

U.S. retail giant Walmart is also experimenting with visual search technology through Hayneedle, a home furnishings company they acquired in 2016. The technology will allow users to point their smartphone camera at a piece of furniture they see while out and about, and then suggest relevant or similar products in their inventory.

In light of these innovations, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to imagine a time when searching for or discovering new brands and products using images will be more convenient and prevalent than the current text-based search.

What does this mean for brands moving forward?

Linear TV has traditionally been seen as the leading platform for brand discovery globally because of its near-universal reach, as well as its direct access and ability to tell stories in the richest format available.

New media formats and viewing habits have seemed to challenge this – but it’s important not to exaggerate their importance or success.

As the prime channel for consumers before they formulate a need, TV is still king.

By using social media and online display advertising, direct-to-consumer brands are reproducing many of the top strengths TV has enjoyed. But rather than TV being completely disrupted by the new media, the playing field appears to be becoming more level.

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Written by

Duncan is a Senior Analyst and Writer at GWI. Duncan produces a wide range of assets including reports, infographics and dashboards, along with our Chart of the Week series. Moving to GWI after completing a degree in psychology, Duncan specializes in online consumer behavior and motivations.

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