Monday, May 17

Realising the Long-Term Investment in Advertising

More often than not, advertising is focussed upon in the short-term. Companies usually run advertising campaigns based on current objectives with emphasis lying on the current profit & loss statements. Marketing campaign budgets are prepared each year and are the most variable to company’s growth and profitability. But experts have long been propagating for companies to realise the long-term investment in advertising.

Advertising has evolved a great deal in the past decade. A study conducted by Gain Theory showed that brand advertising can have a significant long-term impact, which is often missed by short-termism in marketing measurement. The long-term effects of an advertising campaign may be even more and stronger than previously perceived.

Every marketer and business leader is aware that strong marketing efforts and advertising aimed at long-term brand strengthening deliver better results. For these improved results, companies need to start viewing advertising as a capital investment with revenue generated like a stream over time. According to an IPA/FT survey, 83 per cent of executive business leaders believe in the power of brands to deliver to the bottom line. In fact, brands that yield strong short-term growth through advertising often inhibit long-term marketing objectives.

Over-emphasis on Digital

The past decade has seen a considerable surge in digital platforms available to marketers for advertising and promoting their brand, product or service. Digital media channels like social media, blogs, websites etc have seen a huge jump in their audience count. Much of this lies in how media consumption has changed over the years. Marketers naturally follow their audiences wherever they see a positive curve. And as brands turn to these digital channels for their advertising campaigns, they prefer instant returns often guided as short-term growth results.

Additionally, reporting and analysis cycles have shortened as well. Where before marketers would analyse results over a 6-12 month period, digital media spoils us with instant for each time of the day. This increased pressure on marketers to provide instant results with supported data has largely contributed towards this change in focus.

This shift has also affected creative and graphic communication of brands. Templates are more focussed on instant gratification when aimed at generating quick results and talk less about the brand ethos. Focus on brand values decreases when these graphics or videos form part of short-term marketing strategies.

Recognising the True Value of Long-Term

Brands and marketers have begun to realise that a lot of the short-term impacts don’t align with the overall, long-term brand objectives of the companies. While short-term advertising may suggest a spike in performance, the strong halo on brand image building is rather minimal.

A few decades ago, when W.K. Kellogg was asked what was necessary to get into the cornflakes business, he replied: “X million dollars to build production facilities; but three times as much to get consumer acceptance.” What he meant to say was that advertising aimed at gaining brand recognition was an integral part of the investment made into the business to create a mark.

Advertising, if done right, is instrumental in building customer loyalty and corporate image. It aids in the building of an intangible capital asset called ‘Goodwill’ which deepens a company’s relationship with its customers and all stakeholders.

A Hybrid

While advertising efforts do not always deliver tangible results, they have an impact on the overall brand image. This can occur in two ways. One is an advertising campaign aimed directly at growing sales and consequently generating revenue. The other is when an advertising campaign aims to build brand goodwill among the customers. While the first tangibly contributes to the profit & loss statement, the latter is an intangible asset and is often overlooked.

The hallmark of any investment is its futurity and advertising adequately satisfies this criterion, as stated by Harvard Business Review. However, to ensure a positive sales growth with the channels available, marketers need to build a hybrid model. A company’s marketing strategy should have an adequate mix of short-term and long-term advertising – one targeted towards immediate, fast-response results and the other focussed towards building a stronger brand value.

What marketers need to do is rebalance their thinking, evolve with the dynamic market and also refer to the key principles of strategy, planning and marketing.

It is wise to grow and move with the current consumer behaviour trends. However, one needs to remember the importance of deep-rooted brand salience. According to a study, 84% customers said that they are more likely to purchase from a brand they follow on social media. But what will make customers follow a brand in an environment where they increasingly want to stay away from branded content ? A solid social media strategy involves a brand showcasing and communicating its values and ethos and establishing an emotional connect with the customers. We refer to this as ‘engagement’ in digital language. Essentially, social media platforms become just another form of media to communicate the brand, however, the essence remains as is – building brand goodwill among the consumers.

In this world of metrics and big data and cloud, it is easy to shift towards short-term advertising strategy. But we must not overlook the long-term impact we want to create in the market and with our consumers. Admittedly, results with advertising are not always instant. But the gradual impact long-term advertising will be creating is something worth the effort. And patience.

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