A WHITTY WORLDWIDE product launch for Marvell at The W Hotel in Hollywood
The only thing that successful brands have in common is a kind of fame.
Most branding experts and advertising people make a living by convincing business people that marketing communication is a deeply specialized practice or dark art; and they do their best to complicate the shit out of it.
For example, before launching a campaign, they'll spend months boiling the ocean, trying to define what their brand should stand for. Ignoring the fact that real people are annoyingly impervious to marketing drivel, let alone the finer points of brand meaning.
Don't agree? Stop someone on the street today and ask them what the difference is between Intel and Samsung? I will bet you their response will have little to no correlation to those brands' strategic documents. And these are two of the most successful brands in the world.
In fact, each of these brands has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years concocting delusions of “differentiation.” They believe their brands are successful because of their unique “brand meaning.” They’re wrong.
"The most probable driver of brand success — and the central principle of communication that an advertiser can control — is fame."
Paul Feldwick, author of Why Does the Pedlar Sing?
Still not convinced? Well, thankfully, research has at last come to our aid.
A study of the IPA Marketing Effectiveness Awards has managed to plot the difference in effectiveness between overwrought marketing campaigns, and the sort of distinctive, fame-driving work we do at Whitty Worldwide.
Point made. Yes, but, while the marketing and advertising business has been wringing it's hands waiting for the IPA's paper to garner global attention, a new wave of messianic digital ad-tech entrepreneurs have convinced many a nervous marketer that the clear path to brand success is now built on programatic precision targeting and promotionally driven 'content' that incentivizes immediate feedback / clickthroughs. Now they're addicted.
And, with more granular short-term data that comes through faster and faster, it's easier and easier to see why even large brands, in mature categories, have increased their use of performance marketing techniques at the expense of long term investment in their most important asset.
I sympathize. There is a comfort to be found in figures: they give us a sense of certainty, however false, in an otherwise chaotic world. And I get why advertisers want to believe that technology has answered their prayers for predictability and accountability; a scientific method for transforming a real world of difficult decisions and uncertain evidence into a comfortingly simplified one, where data, represented as hard fact, will reduce risk.
It's certainly cheaper and faster than mass targeting. But, is it better?
Let's put into the kind of language any CEO and CFO will appreciate.
By definition, promotional activation is about getting an immediate response and, ideally, an immediate sale from existing customers, but maybe nothing more. Eventually, a brand will run out of steam as it grows.
"Brands need the oxygen of fame to scale and deliver new and light buyers, and a much stronger long-term sales stream, fatter margins, more revenue, more free-cash-flow and, therefore, more shareholder value."
Les Binet & Peter Field
It's true, even for brands that are already famous. It is not enough for BMW to be known only to that 5% of the population wealthy enough even to contemplate buying one. For BMW to enjoy real fame, it needs to be known almost indiscriminately. And, tiresome though it may be to accept, the same is true of thousands of well-known and distinctive brands that virtually no one is debarred from buying on the grounds of price.
The bottom line? Successful advertisers split their budget across emotional, product-focused, long-term brand-equity-building that targets a mass audience, and short-term promotions that convert preference into cash.
With that said, the value to a company, if it gets brand fame right, extends well beyond sales levels and profit margins: it extends into labour relations and press relations and investor relations; it helps in the retention of valued people; it gives them a competitive edge when recruiting new graduates.
It's why campaigns that delivers a clear, specific and consistent message at every touchpoint with wit, charm and human vitality are such an unmatched asset; they open minds, warm hearts and make people feel differently about a brand, in a way that inspires them to share their enthusiasm on and offline.
And that's where we come in.