Five ways to reverse advertising's 'less for more' trend
A view from Mike Barrett

Five ways to reverse advertising's 'less for more' trend

Spend is up, and recall is down. It's time to adopt new approaches to content distribution, writes Heat's managing director

Unbeknownst to most industry practitioners, advertising’s effectiveness is suffering a slump. Though companies are spending more to advertise, they’re getting less: Advertising spend is up 12.3%, while advertising recall for the top 100 advertisers is down 11% over the past four years.

So how do you increase recall without spending more of your already scarce marketing budget? CMOs need to look beyond the traditional advertising-agency relationship for better marketing results. CMOs That means expanding the way they think about creativity and focusing as much on their content-distribution strategy as on marketing content itself.

To make their brand spend more effective, here are 5 things CMOs need to remember:

1. Change the "container." Advertisers essentially are asking people to look at a brick wall and pick out a brick — the message about the product or service. What can a business do to stand out? Change the shape of its brick. That means taking the same kind of creative rigor that we apply to what we’re saying and applying it to how and where we’re saying it. Is your message still best delivered in a 30-second TV spot, or would it resonate more in a long-form video, a 6-second video snippet, or something else entirely? For the 25th anniversary to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall, SoundCloud used its platform to commemorate the experience with the help of Grey Berlin. The campaign was as unique as it was effective. The execution was flawless and one of the best methods of advertising produced all year.

2. Focus on surprise. Consumers remember advertising if it surprises them. It’s human nature: As we adjust to frequent sensory input and ideas, they stop registering as notable. Makes sense why ads aren’t being recalled by consumers. Surprise is a powerful tool for marketers who want to stand out, and it can take several forms. The American Egg Board decided that the next-best thing to telling people about the benefits of eggs would be to bring in the Bacon Brothers — the real ones — to sing about them. "Puppy Monkey Baby" did much of the same at this year’s Super Bowl. These brands brought the unpredictability of the internet and meme culture to their spots and it got people talking.

3. Consider real-time content programming to seize the moments when your brand is most relevant. Many companies are missing the opportunity to leverage moments to connect with individual consumers. From a creative perspective, targeting messages based on the audience’s needs at that exact point in time is imperative to maximize relevance. A great example can come from the smallest places. Les Schwab’s summer road trip campaign was able to pinpoint the user’s exact location via their IP address, allowing the brand to serve up a dynamic video to reminding them to check their tires prior to a road trip and directing them to their closest Les Schwab garage. The interaction was easy and didn’t feel invasive, which can be an issue with personalized marketing.  

4. Make small bets in social channels before you make big bets in paid advertising. Producing a high-end digital video or TV spot isn’t cheap, easily adding up to millions of dollars. Social media offers another way to test reactions, allowing marketers to gauge audience reaction. For travel booking site Hotwire, testing messaging on Facebook revealed surprising results. The company expected that telling the audience it could save money — as much as 60% — would be most effective. Yet after running a series of message and image combinations on Facebook, Hotwire determined the audience responded better to messages focused on what consumers could do at their destination with the money they saved through the Hotwire booking process. They wouldn’t have been able to gain those results without that kind of testing.

5. Look in unexpected places for solutions. Consider technology firms, media companies, and yes, consulting partners for more ways to make your marketing messaging work. The CMO role has become more complex, and the ecosystem of marketing providers is changing as well. Marketers might engage with a greater or lesser number of providers, but the goal in working together should be the same: know the target audience, anticipate its needs, deliver relevant messages and foster meaningful relationships.

Figuring out what works for your brand will require trial and error. Getting the most from your marketing spend requires constant learning, refinement, and being open to working in new ways. It’s a challenge, but the payoff — an audience that recalls and embraces your brand — is worth it.

Mike Barrett is managing director with Heat.