Brands must get back to the basics
A view from Claire Beale

Brands must get back to the basics

Brands need to invest in paid media and creativity if they want to grow - pretty obvious, huh? Well, perhaps not any more.

Thank God for Les Binet and Peter Field. They seem to be almost single-handedly proving the case for the broad marcoms industry. If you haven’t got your hands on the initial findings of their new report, produced through the IPA, then let me summarise crudely: brands need to invest in paid media and emotive creativity if they want to grow.

Duh. Pretty bloody obvious stuff, huh? Well, perhaps not any more. Mass-market advertising is hardly the exciting new solution favoured by fashionable marketers looking for an edgy (and cheap) strategy and not too bothered about long-term brand-building because, heck, they won’t be hanging around to enjoy the rewards of that.

Even the big beasts of marketing have stumbled. Back in the summer, Procter & Gamble told analysts that it would be increasing its ad budgets for the year ahead, spurred by a dismal 8% slump in sales. Oh, sure, profits were up by a staggering 49%, but marketing investment had been reduced and sales were sliding. Eventually, P&G realised that cost-cutting is not a long-term strategy for growth and the company has now pledged to put money back into "making consumers aware of our products and communicating their benefits". Janet and John marketing, yes, but even the mighty P&G had taken its eye off the basics.

So the Binet and Field study is a powerful reminder that marketing budgets and mass reach matter more than ever in the digital age. Penetration (reaching a broad audience) is still three times more likely to be the main driver of growth and profit compared with loyalty (consistently reaching the same group of engaged consumers), and brands that use paid media typically grow three times faster than those that rely on owned and earned media alone. So having sufficient budget to sustain a paid-for media strategy is vital – ask P&G now.

Mind you, as Bridget Angear points out in her review of this year’s IPA Effectiveness Awards shortlist, almost half of the 39 papers thumbed their nose to that other fount of marketing wisdom, Byron Sharp, by focusing on specific audiences and proving that mass targeting isn’t essential to brand-building. Interestingly, though, quite a few of these renegades (The Economist, Pepsi Max, Eurotunnel etc) have spent years brand-building in mass media, so there’s hardly a clear-cut case here.

Anyway, the final word should go to John Lewis – winner of the Effectiveness Grand Prix. Brilliant, emotive creative underpinned by a properly resourced, paid-for media plan has created lasting fame and cultural relevance for the brand. Most importantly, though, the strategy has delivered a return on marketing investment of 8:1. Binet and Field would approve.

claire.beale@haymarket.com      
@clairebeale