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Brand building: 5 key points
In the previous article we listed the five key points for brand building, which are: 1. long-term communication and continuity, 2. sufficient investment, 3. broad reach, 4. originality, emotional tonality, and memorability, and 5. accurate measurement. Let’s discuss all of these in more detail.
1. Long-term communication and continuity
You can see two curves in the graph below. The curves represent the impact of two different activities on sales growth: the red one shows the impact of performance marketing, or rather individual activation campaigns, and the grey one shows the impact of brand building activities. The X-axis representing time is the key here. You can see from the graph that performance marketing – conceived as a sequence of individual activation stimuli – repeatedly reaches its own maximum, which it cannot exceed on its own. These are short-term impulses with limited potential. If you want to exceed that maximum, you need two ingredients: conceptual brand building work and time, usually on the order of several years.
Brand building requires patience, long-term, systematic care, continuity, and above all, a different approach than performance marketing. The purpose of brand building campaigns is not to immediately activate sales. It may sound obvious and even banal, but it’s important to remember this always and follow it consistently. Because if you apply the same expectations to brand building campaigns and judge their benefits through the same lens through which you view performance marketing – and in the short term at that – you are sure to be disappointed.
If we treat brand building campaigns like performance campaigns – i.e., we don’t give them the time they need, a continuous strategy, and measure their short-term direct impact on sales – then the chart above is transformed roughly into this:
Where out of the full range of possible growth you will never make it past the initial segment, repeating it over and over and never fulfilling the potential of your brand building campaigns or your business as such. You can never exceed the maximum level of performance marketing alone.
2. Sufficient investment
What is a suitable ratio of brand building investments to performance advertising investments? If you ask the resources of the marketing profession, the most common recommendation you’ll find is:
60% brand : 40% performance
So what does that look like in reality? According to the available data, which was presented by Mark Ritson at the last Marketing Festival, the reality of the allocation of investments for most companies is something like this:
20% brand : 80% performance
Quite a difference, isn’t it? It is precisely these misplaced expectations, and the resulting assessment of the effect of brand campaigns as inadequate, that are symptomatic of the throttling of investment in this area of marketing. Logically – if we work with brand building in the rhythm of short-term cycles, evaluating the activities afterward using the same metrics as the performance ones, and then use that as a basis to change course and strategy, brand building will never feel like something worthy of significant investment.
The recommended 60 to 40 ratio in favor of brand building cannot be understood universally and dogmatically. Depending on your business, a slightly different distribution could work for you. But one thing is clear: If you intend to build a successful brand, you can’t skimp on investing in the activities designed to do so.
3. Broad reach
The effort to build a brand must always be accompanied by broad reach. While targeting a narrow, carefully selected audience can work very well for short-term activation campaigns, in brand building we should largely abandon the scheme of dividing the population into different segments with more or less affinity and always try to reach a broad mass of people, indiscriminately, i.e. in the same way, using the same message, creative, etc.
The goal is to get your reputation as far as possible and root it deeply in the public. Hypotheses about who is more likely to be a potential future customer according to certain criteria, and who is more likely to be impressed by one communication style and who by another, are in this case rather tone deaf and counterproductive, and should be set aside.
4. Originality, emotional tonality, and memorability
Another key to success in brand building is appealing to the emotions of the audience you’re showing it to. Your intention is for people to remember your brand and what you tell them about it as well as possible, and ideally develop a warm relationship with it over time. An important means of achieving this outcome is to arouse emotions, use an original approach that distinguishes you from others, and rely on what are referred to as codes, i.e. simple signs (colors, symbols, motifs, etc.) that you recycle over and over again in brand communication and use to create the overall brand identity. Thanks to these traditional elements, everyone should be able to easily identify your brand.
Thinking Fast and Slow, the bestselling book by acclaimed Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, discusses two systems that work together to create the entire complexity of human thinking. System 1, the quick thinking that we apply in about 95 percent of our daily tasks, operates automatically and promptly, with little or no effort and no sense of intentional control. System 2, or slow thinking, allocates attention to the more complex, conscious mental activities that demand it and caters to only about 5 percent of all our thinking. System 1 could be characterized essentially as instinct, intuition – what we do without much thought and largely unconsciously. System 2, on the other hand, can be thought of as rational thinking that is laborious and very taxing on our brains.
And it is System 1 that should be of primary interest to us marketers seeking to popularize a brand. Our goal must be that people will automatically think of our brand in the appropriate situational context, i.e. when they are addressing a corresponding need, without having to make any mental effort to do so. So that when they get hungry in a city where you run a restaurant, their choice naturally and obviously lands on that restaurant. So that when they are in the store they will intuitively reach for your bottled beer to enjoy their evening with, even though there are many other brands on the same shelf. So that when they decide to buy a product from a category you offer in your e-shop – like many of your competitors do – they spontaneously enter the name or web address of your product into their browser.
5. Accurate measurement
Last but not least, it is important to evaluate brand building correctly, using metrics relevant to it. That being said, we must not slip into measuring it in the same way as we measure our performance activities. For those the goal is to offer your product or service in the right place, at the right time, to the right person, so that they take advantage of the offer immediately.
The goal of brand building activities is to extend and anchor your brand and its qualities in the minds of the general public – so that it is ready for its opportunity in System 1 with as many individuals as possible. The criteria by which you judge brand building campaigns needs to follow this.
In terms of the online environment, display advertising, and specifically our RTB, in the interests of what we what we can measure and optimize directly in the campaign, we should focus first and foremost on reach, frequency, visibility, or average duration of visibility, like for example, the number of views of a video advertisement. In other words, purely impression-oriented metrics that show how many people, how often, and how visibly we were able to present our brand message. We can then secondarily track the click-through rate to our website or an article where we communicate additional information, the time spent there, the average rate of scrolling to the bottom of the page, etc.
However, these metrics alone may not seem sufficient, as they tell us nothing about whether the campaign has really fulfilled its purpose and increased or modified awareness of the promoted brand, product, specific attributes, or strengths, whether it has successfully delivered its message.
At that point other non-campaign indicators should then give us a hint. We can monitor, for example, whether in the wake of brand campaigns – during and after them – the traffic to our website increases (organically, not only due to clicks from these campaigns), or whether the searchability of the promoted item has increased – be it a brand, product, service, or even, for example, catchphrases.
In the context of search, a useful metric for evaluating how a brand is doing is the so-called Share of Search (SoS), which expresses the share of searches for your brand compared to your competitors in a given category. As James Hankins pointed out at the last Marketing Festival, a brand’s share of search is demonstrably correlated with its share of market (SoM). It is the data-driven insight that people generally search proportionately to how they buy.
Ad recall, brand awareness, and brand distinctiveness are also worth monitoring. These can be verified either by a survey conducted by a market research firm or by using survey tools such as Brand Lift.
On behalf of the RTB team Jakub Skřivan