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Why does brand matter when a marketer can just yell and sell?



We’ve all seen the TV ads that scream miraculous product benefits for the low price of $19.99 (“and if you call you now…”).  Since the ads never seem to reach a wear out stage soon enough, we can only conclude that the “yell & sell” technique is successful despite the negative brand impression they may often leave on viewers.  In marketing communications, we often call this unintentional—or unconscious—branding where the advertiser is successful in building a business, but not in building a brand.  Think the telecom carrier MCI in the ‘90s, or “brands” such as ShamWow and Snuggies more recently.

Despite the risk of brand damage, many marketers today are quite happy cranking out low production value ads that successfully generate clicks and hopefully a purchase.  For these types of marketers, branding is an after-thought as the primary focus is short term sales.  Other marketers choose a “hybrid” approach in an attempt to balance sales and brand enhancement:  they’ll produce “hard-hitting” ads and supplement with a softer, branding campaign as air cover.  With varying degrees of success, many automotive manufacturers utilize the hybrid technique with brand campaigns driven out of Detroit and hard-hitting local dealer ads in markets across the US.

If the hybrid approach has not proven consistently effective—and the yell & sell approach is brand damaging long term—why can’t advertising agencies produce ads that simultaneously sell and build brands?  Is this asking too much in a world where every digital campaign is expected to produce some results?  Marketers with ROMI dashboards have to be asking themselves:  “When will agencies step up and consistently produce accountable advertising that can scale my business?”

In order to create accountable advertising, marketers and agencies have to be more deliberate and intentional in creating effective ad campaigns.  Most marketers these days prefer to go straight to the post-campaign optimization phase and fail to conduct the proper due diligence among prospective buyers.  It’s not dissimilar to the “yell & sell” technique:  marketers produce an ad with low production value, run some test media against it and try to tweak the media buy if the campaign is ineffective in generating response.  This technique of producing inexpensive ads and “seeing what sticks” in the marketplace is like shopping blindfolded hoping you’ll pick up what’s on your list.

The solution is to conduct more pre-campaign research in order to determine how to most effectively position your brand against the competition and discover how the brand can achieve emotional and rational relevance with the target audience (i.e., insights research).  A comprehensive research discovery and brand shaping process will ensure greater likelihood that your campaign is effective in the post-campaign optimization phase.  Conducting the proper pre-production audience due diligence will also help agencies be more prescriptive and deliberate in their campaign development and brand management.

A process for developing accountable advertising that simultaneously sells and builds positive brand imagery, is what we call the five steps to Transactional Brand Building™:

1. Discover 2. Shape 3. Integrate 4. Express 5. Optimize
What Quantitative & Qualitative Research (brand tracking, A&Us, ethnographies) Brand Positioning & Architecture Internal Communications Advertising, PR, Digital, Direct Brand Measurement & Media Optimization
Why Uncover rational and emotional insights that impact creative execution Create an Ownable Selling Proposition and brand vision Obtain buy-in within and create employee brand ambassadors Create campaigns that sell (motivate) and build the brand (relevance) Measure brand momentum & health to inform (re)discovery process. Determine optimal media mix to efficiently scale.

Marketers tend to spend more time on the right side of the Transactional Brand Building path and not enough time on the left side because investing in research prior to campaign development requires time, investment and patience—three characteristics in short supply in the attention economy.  The more marketers invest in brand discovery and shaping, however, the more they reduce risk and ensure sales and brand building success in the Express and Optimization phases.  Yell & sell can build a short term business, but it can’t build a long term, sustainable brand.  After all, is anyone still wearing that Snuggie, or using that ShamWow?


Published at on 8/4/15.

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