3. Brand Campaigns
Coming out of your marketing planning process, you should have identified the target audiences, media channels and the messaging approach you will use to connect with your prospects throughout their journey. Some of these will be Brand Advertising, or Paid media channels, and some will be Brand Activation channels, many part of your Owned and Earned media activities. Right now, as you reach out to your target consumers for the first time, you are concerned with the channels and vehicles you have already identified as the best potential initial connection points.
There are two basic kinds of advertising campaign that you can run. A Brand campaign or a direct response campaign. A brand campaign establishes value for your product or service, as compared to a direct response campaign which is more for driving sales. Of course, everyone just wants sales, but it’s important to remember that establishing perceived value for your brand, is the foundation that is necessary before you can get sales. Of course advertising is rarely clear cut. Some campaigns combine branding elements with direct response and many direct response campaigns reinforce branding elements.
Brand campaigns can now focus and go straight for the emotional jugular.
Regardless, the basic role of a brand campaign is to create perceived value for the brand. If you’ve never heard of a product or don’t have any opinions about it, you’re not likely to buy it. Brand campaigns are all about presenting the brand promise and beginning to tell the brand story. It’s the difference between a Ford ad that tells the story of their F-150 truck and another Ford ad for 0 % financing. If you already have an impression of value for the F-150 then you are more likely to respond to a call-to-action.
Traditionally brand campaigns have used media like TV and print for branding. These mediums are good at creating emotional impressions, not only for those actively searching for solutions, but more importantly for those not even thinking about it yet. Before the digital age when consumers got the ability to do research easily, a great deal of our intention to buy came from these branding campaigns. But today, with digital channels handling the heavy lifting, brand campaigns can now focus and go straight for the emotional jugular. When the Queensland Board of Tourism wanted to get attention it advertised for the “Best Job in the World,” six months taking care of a gorgeous little island off the Great Barrier Reef. Using newspaper ads and social media the Board got over seven million visitors and 34,000 applicants for the job.
The first job of any brand should be to get our attention, intrigue us, create desire, get us to dream and lay down a foundation of positive feelings. That’s because consumers are going to go to the internet and research their options one way or another, so the idea is to create brand preference before they do. Most people need to be engaged emotionally before they are willing to invest time analytically.
Consumers don’t have to pay attention anymore.
They are no longer captive audiences for ads. With on-demand TV and digital recorders, as well as Netflix, Hulu and the like, consumers have lost their tolerance for ads. And in digital channels most of us don’t don’t pay much attention to ads either because we’ve learned how to screen them out. This makes original, emotionally arresting creativity a necessity if brands want to cut through consumer defenses and get them to pay attention. It’s simple we don’t mind funny commercials with talking babies and the like, just don’t try to sell us anything.
Of course, if your prospect is actively looking and ready to buy, then any related ad will probably get their attention without having to emotionally engage them too much. This represents, however, rarely more than a tiny percentage of the audience at any time. But while this small group may pay attention to a sales pitch, the rest of the audience will probably not. They will need to be wined and dined first. They will need you to create emotional engagement and value for your brand before it can earn a piece of their consciousness.
Cursed to acquire the same people over and over again.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens. Human nature being what it is, somebody at a brand says “We need sales now!” which results in marketing charging after that sliver of ready-to-buy prospects. If a brand hasn’t already created strong brand preference, this approach has always seemed like a huge waste of money and opportunity to me. Just targeting people actively in market often means you are relegated to competing on things like price and promotions. It also means you are cursed to acquire the same people over and over again, at great cost, and to waste the vast majority of every advertising dollar. It always made much more sense to me to use advertising to create a strong brand and then use digital channels, such as the brand website, to not only convert those ready to buy, but also to capture all those other interested, but not quite ready, prospects into a brand cultivation process.
Brand Advertising channels include all the traditional media such as TV, radio, print and outdoor, plus digital channels such as digital advertising and acquisition email. These are all ways to trigger the beginning of your relationship. Deciding if a medium is the right one at this stage of the game is about answering a series of questions about your target consumers as part of your strategic planning process. As I outlined in Chapter 1, this will give you clear direction and prevent costly mistakes. Your work in developing your marketing plan will have identified the best channels and media vehicles to reach your target audiences, and this may include some traditional channels, such as TV. But things are changing. In 2015 digital channels continued to grab more of consumer’s time every day growing to 45%, up 4.5% from 2014. At the same time TV use, the second biggest category, continued its slow slide to 34%. Despite that TV, and other traditional media, remain powerful advertising tools when appropriate.
Replace Paid media with Owned and Earned media.
Paid media for Brand advertising is still very expensive so the idea is to use it as sparingly as possible. The good news is that the digital age has brought with it the opportunity to replace Paid media with Owned and Earned media, and enables brands to leverage content, customers and communities, which I’ll discuss in the next chapter. This means that, in general, brands should invest in the potential of their Owned media, such as their website and content, and their Earned media, such as social media, before turning to Paid media. Exceptions to this are when a brand has not built advocacy momentum with its customers yet, and is looking to introduce itself and its brand promise to its target consumers for the first time, or when a brand simply needs to add new consumers faster than it can organically. This is when Paid media can act as the trigger to get the process going. It is when it can attract attention, make the initial connection, deliver the emotional brand promise, start to create brand preference and drive prospects to digital. The other use of Paid media, is of course, for sales and promotions which I will talk about in Chapter 5 – Convert the Consumer.