Grow your brand, don't just tighten the noose
A view from Jon Restall

Grow your brand, don't just tighten the noose

The big retailers' festive ad campaigns show the power of telling an engaging story, but Time Inc's UK trading director says brands need to remember that storytelling isn't just for Christmas.

It’s fair to say that use of data has transformed the media landscape over recent years – and has been an incredibly important development for both advertisers and media owners in identifying and targeting key audiences. Used well it’s a valuable tool.

For example, it’s true that retargeting can help optimise ROI towards the end of the purchase journey, helping convert those people who have previously considered buying a product. This potentially provides a spike in short-term sales (and a thumbs up from the marketing director), but doesn’t capture the negative damage that excessive retargeting can do to a brand’s long-term health and prestige, or the diminishing returns caused by ad fatigue. Nobody expects or desires to be chased around the internet by a premium brand behaving like a PPI cold caller.

There has been much recent conversation about the need to use data and the human brain in equal measure to help counter this type of approach. This is one of the key nuances of good media planning, using data as a base on which to tell a much richer and intuitive story based around the excitement, inspiration and desire that brilliant media brands can provide. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen recently, many KPIs set within media briefs still seek only to measure the bounty of short-termism.

Unfortunately, the tendency to filter marketing communication down to smaller and smaller groups of people is surely starting to tighten the noose around a product’s long-term potential. After all, in "How Brands Grow", Byron Sharp contests that growth primarily comes from gaining new users – the polar opposite of repeatedly targeting people who already use a product.

In addition, the smart brains of Les Binet (Adam & Eve DDB) and Douglas McCabe (Enders Analysis) have both recently warned against the perils of shunning long-term brand building in favour of short-term metrics. I would contend that the very audiences that algorithms now view as wastage can sometimes represent the best opportunity to help increase your brand’s universe – or "mental availability", as Sharp calls it.  

Premium content provides an opportunity for brands to broaden their potential audience by engaging with people who are united by a thirst for information or inspiration, rather than being simply lumped together as a demographic. And when this content operates around people’s passions, that’s when the real magic can occur.

Imagine a stilted chat at a dinner party which suddenly unlocks into a flowing conversation when the discussion turns to music, sport, recent holidays or a myriad of other things. Engaging with people around their passions reaches them in a more receptive mind-set and can unlock their purse strings too.

If brands really want to thrive they need to engage with broader communities of people at the right time and in the right context. It’s becoming increasingly important to understand what is really driving a consumer’s progress towards that last click, rather than focussing solely upon it.

Jon Restall is UK trading director at Time Inc