Brands often find themselves standing in front of two closed doors. One is marked short-term sales, the other is marked long-term brand building. For too long, brands have had to decide between taking a leap through only one of the doors, particularly during tough economic times.
But there is risk in both choices, as brands seek to carefully navigate the trade-offs between short-term gains and the potential impact on brand equity and customer perception in the long run.
So, what’s the key to winning short and growing long? To find out, at Campaign we’ve assembled a crack team of thought leaders. In partnership with Talon, Social Element, Cvent, Assembly Europe and Fold7, our experts leave no stone unturned in their quest to balance the long and short of it to deliver great marketing effectiveness.
The best of both worlds
“One of the risks of separating brand building and sales is it breeds laziness,” said Dom Dwight, marketing director at Taylors of Harrogate. “It makes you think ‘I don’t have to think about short-term sales performance because I’m working on brand building’, or the other way around.
“That’s a disappointing point of view because there are so many things that are classified as brand building that are also doing really good short-term jobs.”
Our experts said it is important not to look at brand building and sales as oppositional. Too many brands make the mistake of thinking brand building is a long-term process, when every public-facing moment is a brand experience.
“It’s about always challenging ourselves to think that every activation can build brand,” said Tanja Grubner, global innovation, brand & communications director, Essity/Bodyform. “Even something as small as a price promotion on a product is building your brand.”
A growth mindset is key to striking the right balance, said Susan Jones, chief digital officer, at Diageo.
“We started on a 10-year journey of marketing effectiveness where we wanted to get it as efficient as possible,” she said. “But what we realised halfway through is that we were leaving opportunities on the table. So we turned the idea on its head and used it for opportunity, and to justify investing more behind our brands. It was a great turn to take because it sent us on a hunt for opportunities rather than constantly trying to figure out how to get things cheaper and cheaper.”
Dwight, who as marketing director at Taylors of Harrogate looks after Yorkshire Tea, continued the theme of missing out on opportunities by playing it safe: “We used to look up at PG Tips and Tetley and think we’d never reach them because they’re far too big,” he said. “We were concentrating on growing our little slice of the pie, and we were doing quite well between 2010-15, when we were growing relatively steadily by focussing on people who already knew us and bringing them closer to us.
“But we realised this was a missed opportunity, and from 2016 our campaign has all been about targeting the folk who didn’t have Yorkshire Tea on their radar.” The shift towards a growth mindset has paid off: Yorkshire Tea has become the UK’s biggest black tea brand.
It’s all well and good if the marketing team wants to pursue a growth mindset, but little can happen if the leadership teams don’t understand the balance between sales and brand building.
“The role of brand and marketing is lost at the C-Suite level,” said Shufen Goh, co-founder and principal at R3. “I don’t believe the issue arises with the CMO, but convincing the sales leads or the product leads to invest in marketing the product is really difficult.”
Grubner has seen that challenge up close at Bodyform, when she was part of the ‘Blood Normal’ campaign to break taboos around periods and normalise the experience for women.
“The agency [AMV BBDO] came back with a campaign idea that would show blood on the ads, rather than just a blue liquid, which had been the convention before,” she said. “And people freaked out. We had lawyers in the UK telling us we couldn’t air it because it would cause great public offence. Concerns were raised about how the shareholders would react. But we still went with it, with the promise we’d take it off air if it created a shitstorm.”
Inevitably, the opposite happened: women loved it, audiences loved it, and it won the Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Festival. “It helped build the brand, build the business, drove sales, and helped us to unlock marketing budgets,” said Grubner.
One way to bypass executive concerns is through proof, and that’s getting easier, believes Barry Cupples, group CEO at Talon: “Since the birth of TV, advertising has been a guess economy. But in the last 10 years, arguably we’ve moved into a rich evidence economy. But we don’t properly leverage the rich evidence economy because we’re really scared of there being a payment-on-results reality! But we should be using evidence to drive marketing effectiveness – it should never be about price in this industry.”
Brand comes first
“You know when marketing effectiveness is really working when it isn’t about the ads,” said Yelena Gaufman, strategy partner at Fold7. “It’s about the role a brand has established in culture, and that role will mean the decisions you make both short-term and long-term will be consistent.”
Nicole Taylor, senior VP and head of Lego Agency at Lego Group, agreed that brand must always come first, and everything falls into place from there. “I’m pretty new at Lego, but it was immediately clear that everything we do is about the brand,” she said. “Every choice we make is with the brand and the story in mind. The products themselves are like social objects, they’re like an ad in their own right, and that gives you such great freedom.”
“At McDonald’s, we ask ourselves what role we already play in culture all of the time,” said Erwin Dito, VP of global brand at McDonald’s. “So that means we ask ourselves ‘Is this true?’ For example, we wouldn’t collaborate with a celebrity who hasn’t mentioned McDonald’s in their past. Because it wouldn’t be true.
“But, if it’s true to your brand, you can never go wrong .”
Jean-Paul Jansen, CMO, Mars Petcare
“We’re all good at planning, but we don’t know what we don’t know. So be super clear on your cascading priorities, so the moment you have to adjust your budget you know what your lowest priority is and that’s where you start; or the other way around – if there’s room to invest more you will know exactly what your next priority is to invest in. If you get that aligned up front it gives you a lot of stability with your media partners.”
Karen Carter, director, enterprise marketing, Europe, Cvent
“When I talk to B2B marketers it feels more acute that driving leads rules the day as ingrained culture. It’s incredibly short-term and sales-led, so the challenge of breaking through and proving brand value is super challenging. The balance of brand activation alongside demand is critical so that culture needs to change.”
On managing expectations
Linn Frost, managing director, Europe, Social Element
“Building brands is an investment and it takes time to get the full pay off, so it's critical to manage expectations across the business right from the beginning. This will prevent the pressure or temptation to short cut or pivot back into short term sales driving activities, ultimately harming the brand. Protecting the activity that drives an emotional brand connection especially social is important as it's proven to drive brand love which leads to longer term loyalty and ultimately sales.”
On the panel…
Maisie McCabe, Editor, UK, Campaign; Karen Carter, director enterprise marketing, Europe, Cvent; Barry Cupples, group CEO, Talon; Erwin Dito, VP of global brand, McDonald’s; Dom Dwight, marketing director, Taylors of Harrogate; Linn Frost, managing director, Europe, Social Element; Yelena Gaufman, strategy partner, Fold7; Shufen Goh, co-founder and principal, R3; Tanja Grubner, global innovation, brand & communications director, Essity/Bodyform; Jean-Paul Jansen, CMO, Mars Petcare; Susan Jones, chief digital officer, Diageo; Nicole Taylor, senior VP and head of LEGO Agency, LEGO Group; James Townsend, global CEO, Assembly