Les Binet and Peter Field have carried out a rigorous analysis of the 1,000+ IPA Effectiveness Awards cases to see if long-term brand-building campaigns are more efficient than short-term sales-generating ones. Their finding is that, in fact, campaigns that do both are best and that the budget balance between them should be about 60:40 in favour of brand-building versus brand-activation. Didn’t we know this formula in the 70s, wasn’t it called ‘theme and scheme’ and how did we forget it?
I’m extremely glad that you’ve read the Les Binet/Peter Field IPA paper The Long And The Short Of It: Balancing Short And Long-Term Marketing Strategies. It’s one of the most useful contributions ever to an understanding of brands and brand promotion, and it’s important that its findings don’t get perverted through over-simplification; which is why I suggest you read it again.
Back in the 70s, we didn’t have access to the IPA databank of effectiveness and we didn’t have digital. But certain marketing companies, certain marketing professors and certain agencies felt strongly that most mainstream, repeat-purchase brands would benefit most from both theme (brand-building and brand maintenance) and scheme (promotions, or brand-activation). What Binet and Field have done (in conjunction with their equally valuable follow-up piece, Brand Success In The Digital Age*) is to demonstrate with hard evidence that, while this belief is well-founded, there are vital distinctions to be made: in the kind of themes and in the kind of schemes that are likely to do more good than harm.
It has taken quite a long time for the marketing world to come to terms with the fact that advertising’s greatest contribution may be nothing directly to do with sales. It still seems a bit unmanly to say so. Most annual marketing plans still aim for sales growth. But, once you understand the contribution that proper theme advertising can make to the wantability of a brand, so defusing price-cuts by beastly competitors, you also begin to realise the suicidal insanity of some self-inflicted promotions. Bribing people to buy your brand means you sell a few more packets for a week or two; get much less money for them; while neatly emasculating the much larger sum of money you spent on trying to make people want them in the first place.
*Market Leader, September 2013
After ten years in business, our agency has done quite well and given me and my partners a good living, but I’m worried that we’re being upstaged by new start-ups in our own field and by specialists in social media, mobile and the rest. Should we relaunch? Apparently, Next used to be Hepworth and River Island was once Chelsea Girl – has any ad agency reincarnated like they’ve done?
Your question neatly illustrates why some senior client companies still regard advertising agencies as little more than cosmeticians.
"Sorry about the sales figures, Brendan. As agreed, we’ve conducted an in-depth, no-holds-barred, warts-and-all, bottom-up marketing review and come up with a radical new plan. Our conclusion is that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with your product – you’re just being upstaged by some of these new start-ups, resulting in what we here at the agency call reputational deficiency. So we’re recommending you commission a new pack design incorporating a new sans serif iteration of the brand name, recruit what we here at the agency call brand plenipotentiaries to dominate social media, and then stage a mega-profile trade relaunch at The Shard with Lady Gaga and David Attenborough."
You’ve invested ten years and a lot of hard work in your own brand. It has done quite well, so it will have acquired a reputation. Change its name and you’ll start again – I was going to say from scratch. But it won’t be from scratch, actually, it will be far worse than that. You’ll be universally known as TheAgencyThatWasFormerlyCalledGBHButDidn’tQuiteMakeItSoWasStupidEnoughToChangeItsNameToGumDropzInThe-PatheticBeliefThatClientsWouldBeTakenIn.
As George Safford Parker said in 1888: "Make something better and people will buy it." You never know: it could work for you.
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