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Post-pandemic Zoom needs a brand

We love to hate how much we need it, but Zoom is a brand of the year. It’s easy. It’s intuitive. It’s accessible and secure.

More people downloaded Zoom than Instagram in 2020. It was Apple’s most downloaded app of the year. It has more than quadrupled sales year over year. And surprising to no one, Zoom is the top brand consumers are using more, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Covid Study. Spots 2 and 3 went to Purell and Netflix.

Zoom also stood among giants in our 2021 Participation Brand Index. Of the 60+ B2B brands we asked about, it was ranked seventh in ‘brands I always choose.’ 75% of B2B respondents said Zoom ‘is a leader, as opposed to a follower’ just narrowly missing the top 10 – a group filled with the usual names and perennial Participation Brand Index favourites like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and IBM.

In the B2B comms and collaboration category, it was the top brand across all 13 performance metrics. Zoom is a brand that respondents talk about, instantly recognize, always choose, are willing to pay more for and are interested in what it does next.

Unlike other video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams or Webex, Zoom transcended its status as a work tool to transform the lives of just about everyone. People got married, had babies, graduated college, went on first dates, hosted showers, and in the most horrific global crisis in modern memory, people said their goodbyes over Zoom.

Today, ‘Let’s Zoom’ has become nearly as ubiquitous as ‘Google it.’

Lillian Veley

7 Mins read

More people downloaded Zoom than Instagram in 2020. It was Apple’s most downloaded app of the year. It has more than quadrupled sales year over year. And surprising to no one, Zoom is the top brand consumers are using more, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Covid Study. Spots 2 and 3 went to Purell and Netflix.

Zoom also stood among giants in our 2021 Participation Brand Index. Of the 60+ B2B brands we asked about, it was ranked seventh in ‘brands I always choose.’ 75% of B2B respondents said Zoom ‘is a leader, as opposed to a follower’ just narrowly missing the top 10 – a group filled with the usual names and perennial Participation Brand Index favourites like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and IBM.

In the B2B comms and collaboration category, it was the top brand across all 13 performance metrics. Zoom is a brand that respondents talk about, instantly recognize, always choose, are willing to pay more for and are interested in what it does next.

Unlike other video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams or Webex, Zoom transcended its status as a work tool to transform the lives of just about everyone. People got married, had babies, graduated college, went on first dates, hosted showers, and in the most horrific global crisis in modern memory, people said their goodbyes over Zoom.

Today, ‘Let’s Zoom’ has become nearly as ubiquitous as ‘Google it.’

Despite its leadership, Zoom is a brand laggard

Zoom received a below average Participation Brand Index score (3.76) from respondents in our 2021 Participation Brand Index. Its Participation Brand Index was among the lowest index rating in the category, below 50th percentile overall and lower than both Cisco (4.53) and Webex (4.14), competitor organizations where Eric Yuan, Zoom’s founder, worked prior.

zoom chart

Our Participation Branding methodology is built on rigorous consumer testing that proves the relationship between participation and business performance. The most potent and efficient brands are being built with people, not for them.

Zoom capitalized on a shift to everything-from home. But short a brand, it can’t last.

Zoom, now is the time for brand building

The question is how do you capitalize on ubiquity? Ubiquitous brands are so entrenched in our lives that they risk becoming invisible. How do you generate affinity, excitement, or love for something that people feel reliant on or, worse, forced upon?

There are three areas of participation we believe Zoom can leverage to build a lasting brand: Passionate Purpose, Culture Shaping and People Power.

1. Share your why, not your how

A brand with a Passionate Purpose is driven by a genuine and visible desire to participate positively in customers’ lives. Zoom’s stated mission is to create frictionless video conferencing, but we don’t know why. Is it because life is filled with needless friction already? Because video is the most intimate way to connect? Zoom’s website says they ‘deliver happiness’ which gets closer to their why. Unfortunately, this site is the only evidence that happiness is their motive, an emotion its users sorely need. ‘Zoom fatigue’ is the topic of nearly 800 news articles, 22 podcasts, countless tweets and now one Stanford study – the first of its kind devoted to ‘examining the full extent of Zoom fatigue.’ In a not-at-all-scientific Instagram poll of what feeling Zoom evokes, I heard ‘boring’, ‘loathe’, ‘fog’, ‘nothingness’, ‘apathy’, ‘nerves’, ‘antsy’, ‘annoyed’, ‘disappointment,’ ‘self-consciousness’, and ‘exhaustion’ among others.

The emotional fallout of a year-plus in isolation isn’t Zoom’s fault. That’s a side effect of being a crisis brand. You get all of the awareness and all of the cultural associations that come along with it.

But if you don’t lead with a clear purpose, your audience will assign you one.

What might happiness look like from Zoom? Zappos hides Easter eggs in their UI, reportedly has sent flowers to its customers, purchased from competitors when a customer’s shoe was out of stock. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, was such a believer in the power of happiness, he literally wrote a book on it. Really happy brands will stop at nothing to delight.

Zoom laptop cup
Zoom laptop desk

2. Shape culture by design, not default

A Culture Shaping brand participates in people’s passions, lifestyles and conversations with relevance and meaning. Zoom’s meteoric rise represents a major shift already. But so far, Zoom is shaping culture out of necessity. This is a golden opportunity to build brand love at a critical turning point: flex work is going mainstream. People are disconnected and fatigued. The number of employees permanently working remotely globally is set to double in 2021, from 16.4% to 34.4% according to a study from Enterprise Technology Research. Boston Consulting Group, PWC, Upwork and others predict hybrid work as the new normal. Zoom could shape that conversation. How do we connect teams in and out of office? How does a modern distributed workforce operate? Who will help us navigate this new normal? And how can we give people a positive feeling around this shift instead of the current alternative?

3. Connect people, not participants

A brand with People Power harnesses people’s participation with the brand to deliver influence, advocacy and social proof. According to our Participation Brand Index, people are more likely to talk about and recommend a people-powered brand and are even willing to pay more. Zoom has more than 350 million daily meeting participants. How might Zoom humanise their brand and tap into this strange shared experience outside the meeting? People are already doing it. There are threads devoted to the precarious set-ups people use behind the Zoom. More seriously, the video conferencing tool has been a lifeline for those struggling with addiction. The second most popular Zoom Google search after ‘zoom backgrounds’ is ‘zoom aa meeting’. When you understand users lives outside the user experience, your brand becomes bigger than its benefits.

As the pandemic plateaus and competition heats up, we’re entering a full out feature war. Gartner forecasts the worldwide social software and collaboration market will total $4.5 billion in 2021, up 17.1% from 2020.

Zoom has a great, ‘frictionless’ product and respect in market. People use Zoom because they need a simple, secure platform and Zoom works and works well. But functionality is the cost of entry.

When a company is innovation-rich and brand-poor, there’s no attachment. You’re less likely to forgive brands that you have a transactional relationship with. In fact, you examine them even more.

Now is the time to capitalize on the innovation gains and build a brand that creates loyalty beyond reason – by acting on a purpose, shaping culture with intention and powering the millions who choose Zoom already.

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