Wednesday, 23 December 2015

How to Avoid Branding B.S.

If I hear one more person talk about ‘branding’ I’m gonna vomit.
Seriously.
Lunch….everywhere.
Why?
Because it’s one of the most ridiculous things in the world to talk about – on anything but a large national scale. If you have millions upon millions of dollars to incinerate…then…godspeed and good luck.
What’s a Brand Anyway?
A brand is simply one thing: a promise.
A brand is built by a company or organization which, over many years, continues to make and deliver on promises of value and pleasurable experience for its customers. Value beyond that which customer parts with dollars for.
Most talking heads about ‘branding’ today don’t even have a single consecutive year of delivering anything to anybody.
Coca-Cola has one of the most valuable brands in the world. They’ve been at it since 1886.
Microsoft also has one of the most valuable brands in the world. They’ve happily dominated your computer life for the better part of almost 30 years.
If I had to venture a guess, I’ll bet Asa Candler and Bill Gates were first thinking about how to sell more stuff than they were about building a global brand. The brand came later, after they started making customers happy by providing value. It’s a matter of horse before cart.
Fast Advice
Look: if you want to spend a bunch of advertising dollars that focus on branding, just stop and do yourself a favor:
Bundle up all of that cash and send it to me. Or send it to some kids in Africa that need clean water.
Please don’t invest heavily in an ad campaign that plasters your logo and slogan all over the place in the hopes that soon you’ll take a random street walker poll and 9 out of 10 people will have instant recall of who you are and what you do for them.
You must be able to spend gobs and gobs of money if you want any hope of implanting ‘brand recall’ in the minds of your potential customers. If you cannot afford to do this and you prefer to have your advertising dollars come back to you in measurable, quantifiable results then brand advertising (in its commonly accepted form) should be relegated to the scrap heap.
The main problem is branding is a very ‘me’ focused message. “We stand for this,” “We’ve been in business for a million years,” etc.
Who cares?
The customer tunes into only one radio station: WIIFM
What’s In It For Me!
Your big logo and nice colors and clever slogan do not do anything for me. No benefit. No offer. Zip. You might put your brand in front of me a million times. Maybe I’ll buy it. Probably not. But if I do buy, I’ll probably buy simply by default. I would have bought anyway, so the ad dollars are wasted.
Some brand managers will write and tell me that I’m not telling the whole story. They’ll say that brand advertising is only one part of their marketing mix.
And they’re half right.
If you are  brand manager for Tide or Clorox, then showing “Julie’s whites are whiter” with the logo may be necessary. But there’s a very tough argument for me in spending any ad dollar that cannot be directly tracked to sales.
As legendary ad man Claude Hopkins said: “Advertising is salesmanship in print.’
(maybe updated now to other media, but idea holds).
Dollar Sink Hole
Who is brand advertising is good for?
A. Advertising agencies.
B. Graphic designers.
C. Website developers.
D. Not you (probably)
Agencies and “creatives” love any shiny object. Brands are one of these things. It means big billable hours and minimal (if any) accountability to results.
I remember not long ago when having a ‘flash’ website was all the rage.
That was…until someone found out that search engines cannot find your website if it is programmed in flash.
And then someone also found out that website visitors were largely annoyed by flash and clicked off the site instantly.
One of the most telling signs of agencies having “shiny object syndrome” and selling such BS to clients was revealed to me a few years back at a local AMA meeting.
A creative manager for a large agency rambled for 25 minutes about how all of his team were heavily immersed in creating Second Life brand exposure for their clients. This manager had charged his people with creating billboard  and other advertisements within a fake online world.
My question was: do the real life shareholders make more money if an avatar in Second Life buys a XYZ brand car with Linden dollars?
Maybe I’m  just an old-timer.
But they were actually charging the client tens of thousands of dollars a month for this “service.” Indeed.
If the emperor is wearing no clothes, why not get paid to flatter him?
Bottom Line
Any marketing expenditure must be ruthlessly accountable to results.
My rule is: if you cannot track it you cannot spend it. It’s an easy one to remember and it keeps everyone on the same page.
Brand advertising is impossible to track. Did the customer come in from the ad in the newspaper or the tv commercial? There’s no way to tell. The only thing you can see is if sales are up or not. But you cannot see why. You cannot allocate your marketing budget accordingly. You waste lots of valuable money. You fall victim to the John Wanamaker problem of advertising stated as follows:
“Half of my advertising works and half of it doesn’t. If I only knew which half…”

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