#20 Can Advertising and Promotions Work Together?

Product performance, pricing and positioning, packaging and size portioning, brand positioning, in-store promotions and advertising are the levers a marketer regularly juggles to grow brands. Without too much doubt that the last two are the most talked about and controversial, going head to head in their fight for budgets. What should you choose to do: build long term association in people’s minds with the brand or sell the product at a discount now. How brands allocate their budgets between advertising and promotions is a management decision that reveals the short-term/ long-term thinking in the company, the balance of power between marketing and finance, and even the average tenure of senior management.

To me, advertising is the best marketing investment you can make to ensure your brand is noticed, remembered and understood in the long term. Assuming your creatives as great, advertising has a positive sales impact in both the short-term (year 1) and long-term (year 2-3). In-store promotions have a fantastic effect during the activity, but little (and most of the times negative) impact in the medium to long term. And this without considering the adverse effects on brand equity that price drops or multi-purchase can return. My point is clear, we mostly agree with it, but our behaviors diverge. As long as we will only focus on our year-end sales objectives, we will continue to prioritize promotions with their sales spike-like effect over everything else.

As a big believer in advertising, I am not able to defend properly in-store promotions. Maybe some of my readers can start a debate on their benefits. To me there is a role for promotions to play, but preferably a reduced one. One thing is certain, when you are running both at the same time, you are wasting money. Yes, it looks cool on your graphs when the advertising campaign has a spike in sales, but that’s just because of the 3for2 ran at the same time. A much more balanced approach of alternating promotions with advertising could work better, but it is very category dependent (expandable categories have an easy time here). A sizable promotional activity will cause stocking, and your next in line advertising campaign will suffer. There is no magic bullet; research can help. Using a robust insight generation program to test different hypotheses in a randomized control testing environment with store-level data is the way to go. But even with research, your decisions to prioritize promotions vs advertising might not be rational in the end.

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

#19 Why Evolving Your Brand’s Packaging and Identity is Often a Bad Idea

For this week’s post, I am going back on memory lane to my old days as a brand manager in the evil tobacco business. It was a tough job, the government set maximum selling prices, consumer media advertising was banned, product sampling was unheard of and habit induced taste preferences made switching between brands unlikely. Left without any major levers to pull, marketers started to invent consumer needs. Our favorite was the consumer appetite to see a brand new packaging redesign. In most cases, we did that to cure our marketer boredom. I doubt consumers genuinely wished for “more modern” brand typeface that made their favorite brand harder to spot on the shelf.

Packungsevolution Lucky Strike – Design Tagebuch
Evolution of Lucky Strike Packaging in Germany

The best method to recognize brands on the shelf is to recall their distinctive assets visually. These are design elements surrounding your brand that generate memory structures in the busy minds of your consumers. Advertising’s role is to show those distinctive assets and build the memory muscle continuously. Think years not days here. Altering your distinctive assets frequently is a recipe for confusion, and rarely needed. Your packaging is one of your most prized distinctive assets, don’t play with it. The orange juice brand Tropicana learned it the hard way (read the case study here). But if you are short on time, the bottom line conclusion of the study is “don’t do it”.

Tropicana label Fail - Robert's Graphic design

Recent Black Lives Matter protests stirred some ripples in the advertising and brand world too. Brands started moving away from images that could generate a PR drama, and packaging redesign became trendy again. While in this instance, playing with your packaging to “update” your brand could be a wise move, in all other cases it’s probably not. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ten years since I left the tobacco world, I wonder what marketing departments are busy with these days in BAT. In the context of more countries moving to plain packaging with non-distinctive branding communication, marketing teams must get bored with something else. What could that be?

Guidelines for plain packaging changes
Guidelines for plain packaging changes – Singapore

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

#18 How Can You Make Your CFO Happy?

An unspoken rule of many corporations is that the CFO doesn’t get along with the CMO. The Finance and Marketing functions, while working for the same common corporate growth goal, are staffed with different personality types that inevitably get to clash. A well-oiled corporation is one in which marketers and finance people slowly get in sync. But how can a marketer make a CFO happy? Here are three ways of answering that puzzle. I recently discovered at Mars the machine is oiled precisely.

Show them the numbers in a new light. Finance people are in love with their numbers. They collect them, control them and know them by heart. But for Finance, in general, a number is just a way to check progress against a target. First, show them you master your ROI numbers and then you have the permission for more. Show them how, for marketers, a number could be a recognition of a real advantage in the marketplace, a deeper connection with a large number of consumers or permission to be bolder in your future communication strategy. Tell a story! Do your job!

Show them the fantastic progress in how we decide. Don’t underestimate the level of awareness someone from Finance has on what advertising looks like in 2020. Yes, their kids might be playing with TikTok, or themselves they might use Instagram, but you need to remind them what marketing looks like today. We focus away from good old TV and Print magazines into a multi-media world that is consumer-relevant and incredibly diverse. Illustrate the transformations: show them how you understand deep consumer behaviors better by using innovative technology, show them how people consume media today and demonstrate your expertise in the advertising ecosystem. 

Focus on their feelings. At the end of the day, we are all emotional beings. Take them on a journey away from the numbers, into a world of experience. Play a song, show an emotional ad, what moves consumers – should move a colleague too. Make them experience your brands in a similar way your consumers are, bring that experience to the room. Don’t be surprised when they’ll look differently at the numbers going forward.

Photo by Chronis Yan on Unsplash

#17 In the World of Brands, David Rarely Beats Goliath.

This week I joined a Mark Ritson webinar to hear his words of wisdom punctuated at every second sentence by obscenities. Popcorn time! You always learn something new from Mark, and my highlight this time was his point on the unfair advantage brand size offers to win the game of marketing. Music to my ears.

We read a lot how new entrants in a category are continually disrupting the old guys; they are stealing market share and are the talk of the “marketing press”. But how many small players manage to grow big? What if there is a survivorship bias here? What if for every small brand that makes it, 29 brands fail to become big? What if, similar to Venture Capital investments, bidding on small brands is a high return low probability event. We often think of media investment as a fixed percentage of brand sales. And this is where we might be wrong.

The less you spend, the less people you will reach, the less sales you will drive, and the less your brand will grow. Why do we think that magically small brands have a more natural path to growth? They don’t; there is one single specific path to build brands: invest in them. I often see huge expectations and tiny budgets. In Mark’s words, identifying when we mismatch our growth ambitions with our budget allocation, should be a checkpoint for every marketer. And yes, a big brand will always have a more comfortable ride, it will have the scale to generate the return you want, it will have the size to invest in mass media and will most likely, win.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

#16 Attention Is the Hottest Trend in Marketinglandia

Attention is the hottest Marketing topic in 2020, and it symbolises a return to focusing on people. From virtual Cannes fireside-chats to Zoom conferences and white papers, everybody talks about the Attention Economy. How Attention will save the murky digital ecosystem or how much better our marketer lives will be when we will focus on Attention as a trading KPI. I am guilty of preaching this too. Yet, in hindsight, there is little new about the concept of Attention. It has always been the first response every marketer desired, ever since Don Draper worked on Lucky Strike. The only novel insight is that Attention to advertising is seriously fading, and that’s bad. And we love talking about future apocalyptic crises (climate change anyone?).

I am aware your Attention to reading this post is fading word by word. We no longer focus on anything and skip from one thing to another. Some estimates put between 4.000 and 5.000 the number of brand messages an average American sees in a single day. Hard to believe, but just while I am writing this sentence, I can see the following brand logos: Logi, Dell, Apple, Sonos and Philips and that’s without even changing my field of vision. But how many brands or messages get noticed? We successfully trained ourselves to ignore, most of what we read or see. How can we expect someone to pay Attention to our advertising? We know Attention is scarce, and that’s why it becomes fascinating to explore – sort of like climate change. We have very few clues about why some ideas or messages spark Attention; we are masters at losing Attention.

I believe in focusing on Attention because, for the first time in years, we enjoy talking about consumers behaviour. The hot topic is not technology (like Voice or AR), a platform (like TikTok or Snap) or a format (Stories or Lenses). We are debating about People behaviours, listening to how they react and how can we adapt our media and content strategies to their needs. That’s fresh, and that’s why I am bullish on Attention.

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

#15 Halo Effects the Holy Grail of Marketing

One of the holy grails of marketing is our desire to manipulate halo effects for advantage. But what is a halo effect? Like Wikipedia, the source of all truths in the 21st century, says, it is the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand or product in one area to influence one’s opinion or feelings in other areas positively. It stretches beyond marketing, in the field of psychology and religion, where apparently the term has its roots.

In advertising, the halo effect is the expectation of an set of attributes known in one field to influence consumer opinion and behavior in another area. Halo effects are the reason why we invest our budgets in celebrities advertising and famous songs soundtracks, or even why we decide to sponsor sporting events despite a consistent negative return on our investment (more on that in a future post).

One of the advantages of having precise measurements of advertising sales impact at Mars is our ability to prove that halo effects exist and have an impact at the point of purchase. Your most recognized product in the brand range will, in case of a great advertising campaign, halo into the less known products – i.e. drive more sales of the products you don’t explicitly advertise. The summit of halo effects is total category halo. Incredibly challenging to execute and plan for, but delivering an excellent kick for multiple brands in the category. The more your brand commands the category, the larger the benefit you are reaping.

As with every other advertising trick, there is no magic bullet. Advertising is a mix of art and science. However, a good recipe of potential success when desiring halo impact is to develop a highly effective advertising campaign. I’ve never seen an ineffective ad create a halo.

When I say George Clooney, which brand comes to mind first?

#14 Augmented Reality – How Brands Move Past the Gimmick Element?

Show me marketer that wasn’t marketed VR and AR as the next best thing since bread came sliced. Seeing new technologies before they are mainstream is one of the many reasons I love my job. AR was one of those technologies 5 years ago, but we had little knowledge of what to do with it. The world has changed, thanks to Snap or Instagram. But do marketers see AR as more than just a gimmick? What do you think?

I was a non-believer in the power of AR or VR until one of our brands built a campaign that answered a current consumer insight: Dogs don’t enjoy selfies, as much as humans are obsessed with front-facing camera techniques. How can you solve this with technology? Pedigree did it nicely, creating a leave-behind item that functions as an enabler for technology to do its magic better.

But we are not alone, this month Gucci showed us that AR can be used on other body parts than just your face. All this to sell 500$ sneakers. Will it work?

Jewelry is another category where AR can do magic. In our social distancing times, AR helps by replacing the awkward masked in-store interactions or the never-ending trials with an experience that you can have at home. I assume the technology works even better on fingers compared to faces.

And last but not least, IKEA shows us how to model our homes, using AR. Their branded app allows anyone to browse unlimited color options and placements for that sofa or chair you always wanted next to your plant.

All those ideas have 3 big benefits:

  • minimize the path to purchase,
  • solve a real problem (trial).
  • create a “coolness” factor for your brand

What’s not to like?

How can you use AR to enhance your brand experience this year?

#13 The 3 Things a Marketer Has to Be Passionate About

What does it take to be a successful marketer? A loud voice? An extravagant character? An immense passion for jumping on every stage and shine? When I applied to my first brand manager role for Coca Cola, in Belgium, this was mostly the core of the feedback received from the HR recruiter. I was on the wrong side of all these personality traits, so my career with Coca Cola ended before it started. I believed then and still do now that a successful marketer is passionate about 3 things design, consumers, and change.

Ordinary people don’t want ads; they ignore them, block them, and pay as little attention as possible to them. We know that. Beautiful design can draw attention, artistic design can unlock emotions, and functional design can solve problems. Design is vital for marketers.

Consumers are people, do you understand them well? Do you know their behaviors beyond the attitudes the expose? Do you oversimplify their natural complexities to segment them for your easy thinking process? The consumer is your wife, your distant cousin, your billionaire, or the person who irons your shirt. Please get to know them better and get to know their needs, but do so in a non-intrusive way.

Change is inevitable in the business world. Get ready to make plans and change plans every single day. Your market is shifting, your stakeholders are changing their minds, your consumers evolve, and you have to know how to pivot. Elegantly adapting your execution to better deliver on the strategy is a requirement for marketers.

If you are passionate about design, consumers, and change, the rest will come in easy. You will shine on stages because your messages will be crisp, consumer-centric, and relevant with the times. You will start talking about what you do with passion and expose your fascinating character. You need to find that voice to accompany all that.

Good luck, introverted marketer.

#12 Music + Advertising = Love

It is true: Attention is the buzzword in my advertising bubble in 2020. Fueled by a great book Dr. Karen Nelson-Field published this year, it is now trendy to talk about the Attention Economy. Myself, I wrote two articles on the topic, while conducting more research than ever on Attention for Mars. Attention is something every marketer agrees we ignored in recent years, but no one knows how to operationalize it. Attention helps in understanding people’s behaviors; it is personal and potentially significantly transformative for the media industry. But how can you grab Attention?

Out of the many ways you can harvest Attention, mastering the use of music, sounds, or sonic branding is one proven way of grabbing the much-needed Attention. Music and advertising go back a long way, Coke used “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” Cadbury used “In The Air Tonight” from Phil Collins and our very own Sheba took “Fever“ by Peggy Lee to a new level. In the era of TV advertising, music was complementing long forms of advertising, adding entertainment value to advertising. 

In today’s cluttered advertising world (with secondary screen usage increasing and Attention to advertising fading), audio signaling is an important lever a marketer can pull to regain of the lost Attention. Research from TVision in the US found that changes in tonality, jingles, famous songs make people “watch the TV screen again” during ad-breaks. On mobile, depending on the advertising platform activated, sound can be less important (Facebook), rarely required (Twitter), or at the center of your execution (Tik Tok or YouTube). Audio has to be part of your communication strategy. We also hear lots of buzz about the growth of Voice technologies (aka Alexa) with potential future Audio-only social media platform, we live in the era of Podcasting expansion, and even Radio has a fresh revival. It’s timely to start thinking about building audio distinctive assets for your brand – sonic branding. Go beyond a famous song that generates short term buzz and reach, be consistent, aim to replicate what more successful pioneers did: IntelNokiaSchmackosPedigree, or Mastercard.

Sound will always be present in advertising in one shape or form, ensure you find your unique brand voice with sound. 

#11 Fight Politely for Attention

If the Advertising digital transformation taught us one single important thing, it is that most people would do anything to ignore, block, or look away from advertising and our brand messages. Yet, brands are still sold and talked about at office watercoolers (or virtual coffee chats). The exponential rise of ad-blockers killed display advertising; the growth of skippable online video killed the 30-second commercial, the rise of multi-tasking, and 2nd screen viewing killed whatever direct attention we still try to earn before.

Is this over? I doubt it! The game became a bit more difficult but not impossible to win; we are in an “expert” difficulty mode at the game of persuading consumers with our messages. Great visual content, fantastic music, and relevancy will still attract people’s attention. Learning how to attract attention politely is the task of a marketeer in 2020. Gone are the days when we could force non-skippable videos and hope for the best; it is time to put a bit more effort in the content we create and the context in which we activate.

To not just highlight a problem, here are three solutions you could start with today:

  1. WARC, we just published a comprehensive guide on the Attention Economy – ask me for a copy (or subscribe to their service).
  2. Dr. Karen Nelson Field just launched one of the best Marketing books of recent years; it only takes 5 minutes to download it on your Kindle.
  3. Ask your Media and Creative agencies how optimizing for attention can potentially generate better results.

In the end, it is just about playing the respect game with the consumer, for a true exchange of value.