Saturday, October 4, 2008

Use this lousy economy to make your brand dominant!

It’s time to re-think how we approach marketing.
How we get things done.
How we talk to our consumer.
How we demonstrate value.
How we are different.
How we will succeed.

The spillover from the sub-prime mortgage crisis is weakening both consumer confidence and consumer spending. But that doesn’t mean people have stopped buying things altogether. It just means that it is more important than ever to know how your consumers are redefining value and responding to the new realities of this economy.

Okay, so you don't need the Smith On Branding Blog to tell you how screwed up the economy is, but maybe Smith on branding can offer a little perspective.

During slow economic times, many companies reduce what they consider non-critical expenditures. Unfortunately, one of the cuts is often advertising. Cutting advertising to weather difficult economic times is like bloodletting to cure a sick patient. And it's about as short-sighted as the "instant gratification, let's get rich today, hell with tomorrow" attitude that has prevailed on Wall Street. We've all heard many times that numerous studies over the years have shown that maintaining or increasing advertising during tough times yields greater results than advertising during the good times.

During a recession, advertising activity generally declines, which means that for advertisers who can maintain or increase their advertising investment, the impact of their advertising is much greater. Clutter is reduced. Your message stands out. Think of Warren Buffett snapping up under-priced stocks in a down market.

In a recession, rather than making deep, arbitrary cuts, adjust your strategies for maximum competitive advantage. That creates opportunity. For advertisers, it’s an opportunity to inject a new perspective into their programs. For consultants like me, it’s an opportunity to strike up a relationship that is brimming with potential profitability and shared success. So instead of discussing where to cut spending, think about how you can use this lousy economy to make your brand dominant!

Has creative been an afterthought in your marketing?

Advertising Week just wrapped up in New York and something said by one of the speakers there makes an excellent point. As reported in MediaPost’s MediaDailyNews, Babs Rangaiah, the director of global communications planning at Unilever (Lipton, Hellman’s Dove, Axe), said if the creative does not drive demand, a strong media plan is not likely to save the day.

Rangaiah is responsible for media planning across all Unilever brands in the U.S. He said if the creative appears banal, it's time to yank the media spend and use it somewhere else. "We have to penetrate the culture," he said. And the way to do that is through ads that effectively jump off the page or out of the screen. Top-notch creative is even more important in a fragmented world. As a creative director, I couldn’t agree more. And how often do a creative director and a media planner agree on anything?

Mr. Rangaiah’s statements underscore how it is more important than ever to craft a sharp message. A message that is carefully crafted to truly differentiate your product may require an assertive push, rather than a pile driver, to penetrate the consciousness of your target consumer.

Think of it this way – that 30-second TV spot or quarter-page print ad costs the same regardless of what occupies the space. Why fill it with something bland? Or worse, something that comes off as if you’re talking to yourself? This applies equally to consumer and business-to-business campaigns.