#9 Few people think much about your brand. Sorry. Get over it.

Brand love is a marketing concept I grew up with, studied it, believed in it, and in the last ten years, started to lose trust in it. Humans love their family, their pets, the places they go, themselves, and trust me, they do not love your brand of toilet paper, cleaning detergent, candy bar, or Pet Treat. Yet, we still believe that brand equity’s outcome is the love of a brand.

The Marketoonist has a great visual on the topic, it’s not new, but always a pleasure to engage with

So, what is happening in reality in people’s brains when advertising knocks on the door. They are exposed to brand messages; they are reacting with their emotions, paying attention, or ignoring the signals received, and they build connective memory structures. Yet rarely, if ever, they replace “the love of <<me>>” with “the love of Hertz” in their brains. Brands are signals of trust for generic product lines; they form a repertoire of choice consistent across categories; brands appear and disappear from peoples’ consideration set based on product performance, salience, and external perspectives (brand fame).

I see the role of advertising to strengthen those memory structures connected to brands, to keep on repeating consistent brand messages, that will resonate at point of sales in unconscious ways. Because even there, where we think humans are analyzing every single purchase decision with care, they are acting on instinct too. But we can nudge the instinct, by building memory structures.

When was the last time you thought the brand you work on is bigger than life?

#8 Be skeptical of trends, yet decisive when spotting a winner

 The TikTok Opportunity. Us marketers are guilty of jumping head straight on trying shiny new trends we get sold at every CES, MarTech conference, or webinars. Blockchain, AR, VR, 5G, Bots, Influencers … to name a few. For a more detailed list, a useful resource I always go back to is the Gartner Hype Cycle. Sorin is one of the cautious marketers, always using my skepticism to peel off the overblown benefit and get to the real core of the problem we are all aiming to solve: am I able to reach consumers better using this trick.

The trend of these days is TikTok, but that is easily an understatement. A social network coming out of nowhere 2-3 years ago, became the spotlight of these confinement times on our phones. Just two datapoints I came across this week made me think that, as a marketer, if you are not planning to use TikTok in 2020, you are probably are missing the train. And this train doesn’t seem to be an overblown trend; it’s where people are spending their time, it’s where the “hard-to-reach” younger audiences are playing, but not only them.

Between March 2019 and March 2020, it is impressive how TikTok became “older,” following the same path that Facebook and Instagram took while growing its user base to an estimated 0.8 billion monthly users. Add to this the average time spent with the app of 45minutes per day (hard to believe), and you might wonder why advertising is not all over the place. But really…45 minutes? That’s must be a big lie!

My second data point is a personal one and confirms the above numbers. Simply looking at my phone usage stats last week, I was shocked to see that TikTok became my most used app by far. It could be that its addictive algorithm makes 4 hours fly by very fast, it could be that music helps you watch and rewatch posts, but when I saw how easy it was to create content using my videos and images, on a famous music track, I started playing even more. But, the entire time I was using TikTok, in Belgium, I haven’t been served a single piece of advertising. Crazy! The age profile is right, the usage time is ridiculously high, the competition is not there (yet). So what are all you marketeers waiting for? Make a TikTok brand challenge, create some content, play with it!

Did you think about creating a TikTok challenge with your brand at the core? 

#7 The Long Term Impact Of Advertising Exists

When was the last time you saw an ad for Coke or Apple on TV? You probably don’t remember, since you gave up on watching TV a long time ago. But then, how come you remember ads you saw 20 years ago, like this one or this one. Guessing on the audience of this blog, you probably saw them when someone shared it to highlight how creative their agency is and how their advertising is so evergreen. But normal consumers remember those ads too. This post is not a piece about word of mouth; it is about the long term impact of advertising. 

Every single impression your brand delivers on TV, on YouTube or Social platforms, builds memory structures, irrespective of the audience is aware or not, if they remember it next week or not. Every view of the brand’s logo – sound – distinctive assets, builds salience. At times it might trigger the unexpected in-store gesture to pick up the product and add it to your basket. That’s what we recognize as a short term sales impact. That’s what we became obsessed with as an industry. Nonetheless, the more powerful effect is the long term impact of advertising.

Let’s get the thing straight. There is no long term sales effect if your advertising is bad short term. That’s why managing your creative portfolio by measuring the short term effect and acting upon the measurement is enough. The long term can be measured; it’s not easy. If you put the effort in, you might end up with an effect multiplier that uncovers the sales impact in the long term. At Mars, we prioritized measuring the short term, while using multipliers to estimate the long term and highlight the longer-term damages of a media spend reduction to brand growth.

There is a second brand effect that you can expect long term, and that one is in the territory of brand equity. It’s very difficult, even impossible, to measure this equity effect and attribute it to advertising simply because advertising is one of the vehicles a brand leverages to speak to consumers. Over the long term, advertising competes with product taste, packaging, shelf availability, shelf standout, price-value equation, social mentions, sponsoring activities, secondary shelf placements, retailer catalog listings, and word of mouth. Therefore, when a certain equity KPI goes up (say – awareness), to conclude it’s advertising that drives its growth would be an overstatement.

The long term is real; it comes in 2 forms sales and equity, it’s partially measurable, and you should try to mention it when the CFO calls.

#6 A positive ROI is table-stakes, brand growth requires more

ROI is the favorite metric for Finance, the least favorite metric for Marketing, and an obsession for some people in Marketing Research. Without downgrading the role ROI or media efficiency plays, I am making the case here about the bigger role effectiveness has in the brand growth trajectory.

Similar to a table game at a casino, a positive ROI is the minimum entry requirement to play in the advertising game. Yet too often, we think ROI is enough to end the measurement conversation. Take the example of the “cheapest media in the world” standard banner display. Yes, the one everyone decides to ignore or block all the time. Display Banners are so cheap that sometimes, by converting a ridiculously small number of consumers to purchase your brand, it yields a break-even ROI. Compare that with the highest quality online video available: it’s really expensive but converts 10x more consumers compared to the display banner. But if it’s simply 10x more expensive, it yields the same ROI. Which would do you choose? For me, the largest conversion, or sales impact, will always win.  Just because a higher conversion will accelerate the growth of your brand faster. You could theoretically grow your brand with display too, but it might take you at best 10x the time to achieve that impact. And more risk along the way. Let’s not get into ad-fraud, ad-blocking, erroneous clicks, and more.

ROI is a reflection of both your creative asset and your media cost. During the last two months – in COVID times, as some advertisers stopped digital investment, we saw significant shifts in CPM decline, on major digital platforms. The shifts caused artificially improved the ROIs. Are the consumers responding differently to your advertising? Probably not. Is ROI simply changing because of market conditions beyond your control? Probably. That’s why I think looking at effectiveness first is a more consumer-centric approach.

At Mars, the consistent fixation with generating a higher sales uplift is what enables longer-term strategies of growth for small brands. When your brand scale is too small to even dream of a positive ROI short term, the only path forward is to maximize conversion. With time, you will command a higher ROI if the sales uplift standard remains high. Looking at only ROI, it could be seen as irresponsible to invest in smaller brands with a great future outlook, and Finance will sweep the table.

How are you educating your other functions to think beyond ROI?