Opinion

Stop focussing on short term creative and start building your brand

As advertisers forsake long term brand building for short term creative punches, AJF Partnership's Jacqueline Witts and Pieter-Paul von Weiler argue the case for brand-focussed marketing.

Two of the greatest creative minds of our industry are famous for believing passionately in the power of creativity to sell, and it still holds true today.

Bill Bernbach believed that “anybody in advertising who doesn’t say his purpose is to sell that piece of merchandise is a phony.” While David Ogilvy told his agency: “We sell – or else.”

All outcomes are not created equal

Les Binet and Peter Field have recently completed their latest study, Media in Focus. They refer back to their earlier work, The Long and the Short of It, and its key finding that if we measure success in the short term, it gives us a very different view of things than if we measure success in the long term.

Indeed, one of their most important findings highlights the limitations of our increased obsession with short termism, in that if we only measure success in the short term, you would never invest in brand building. But brand building has a far more significant long term effect on sales compared to the short term hit of a sales activation.

Indeed, Les and Peter argue that the average time it takes for a long term brand building campaign to achieve the sales result of a short term activation is only six months, but the benefits last much longer into the future. How have we become so impatient?

A brand has to be brave enough to overcome short term pains to achieve long term gain. But in the long term it’s a sacrifice that is worth the investment.

We have known for a long time that creative ideas produce business results. Indeed, Peter Mead of AMV BBDO dubbed creativity “the last legal advantage in business”. But is a focus on short term results impacting how creative and engaging campaigns are?

We know that advertising works more towards the back of the brain, in the unconscious mind. We know that people make decisions emotionally most of the time: 95% of the time according to Ehrenberg Bass.

And yet we have become more rational with campaigns because of the obsession with short term results. We believe that if we give people a good, rational reason to buy, we will tip those with a propensity into purchasing right now. There is a role for short term activation campaigns, but the most important thing is to continue to build consumers’ propensity for our brands. We can only do that through long term positioning and brand building.

Every dollar you’ve spent should build on the dollars you’ve already spent. Long term brand building delivers more efficient and enduring sales results over the long term and, importantly, makes short term sales activation campaigns more effective.

By the time you’re sick of it, the customer has just started to see it

Beyond the organisational pressure to get an immediate result from advertising, there’s the fact that we just get sick of things way too quickly. We even change what’s working for no other reason than a subjective one. We need a change, we’re sick of the same campaign, we don’t like it anymore. Sometimes even the client may think a new direction is needed. But resist the temptation.

The consumer may have only just begun to hear the message. They hear an awful lot of messages from advertisers every day and, as Australia’s most successful advertising duo, Mo and Jo (founders Mojo) famously said: “Repeat, repeat, repeat and you’ll be sweet, sweet, sweet.”

Of course, there are good reasons to change in some cases. American Express could hardly continue with the line “Don’t leave home without it” when people were adding more and more credit cards to their wallets, and it is certainly irrelevant in the modern age of Apple Pay where credit cards are beginning to become obsolete.

But it’s got to be a very good reason because embedding these branded memories in people’s minds takes time and once that equity is there it becomes a huge asset for the brand – one that businesses should interrogate intently before a decision is made to move away.

Jacqueline Witts and Pieter-Paul von Weiler together run the strategy department at AJF Partnership.

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