The supposed conflict between short-term ‘quick-hit’ marketing and long-term brand building no longer exists, according to some of Europe’s top marketers. Gathered at Cannes, marketers from companies including HSBC, Coca-Cola and Uber discussed the idea that the pressure to achieve results right now was stopping marketers focussing on lifetime value.
"Short-term growth is actually the enabler of long-term value," said Patrick Stal, head of marketing EMEA at Uber. "The truth of the matter is, if we don’t grow today then we won’t have the platform we’ll need to grow tomorrow."
"What counts," said Coca-Cola’s creative strategy lead Tom Hidvegi, "is brand adaptability. A brand may be a leader in one market, an explorer in another and a challenger in a third. Although your overarching brand narrative is the same, your tactics must change over space and time – often quite rapidly. Your people and marketing strategy must be flexible enough to roll with the punches."
How brands meet the challenge of adaptability varies. Tatiana Jouanneau, CMO of Duracell, explained that she operates a 60-40 budget allocation, with the larger share of the budget going to sustained brand building.
While other advertisers may not have a business model that allows this kind of investment in the broad-based non-performance marketing, the importance of building brand equity was not something that any brand hoping for longevity could afford to ignore. "People buy brands, not products or formulas," Jouanneau said.
Experience is more important than marketing
"You have to have a convincing and compelling brand story - and it can’t just be a marketing story," said Mia Ropponen, VP marketing at Finnish retailer K Group. "It has to be real. It has to build on what the company really does."
This authenticity has to flow through the entire sales journey, providing the foundation for a consistently excellent customer experience (CX). "It’s not just marketing," said Tricia Weener, global head of B2B marketing at HSBC. "It’s about building a high-quality customer experience that is consistent with your brand story and is represented at every brand touchpoint. That’s why we have customer metrics on everyone’s scorecard, so everyone is judged against customer experience."
Compensation goals do need to be aligned, agreed Mark Cripps, chief marketing officer at The Economist. "There are no sure answers but people do gravitate to where the money goes."
Nick Robinson, CMO at Kerry Foods, pointed out the importance of extending that customer experience to business-to-business relationships. "If yours is a retail brand, having account managers who have good relationships with your retail customers can be more important than any advertising campaign you can run. Because those customers can expand your store footprint, increase the frequency of your instore activity and so on. That’s worth more than any campaign."
By combining a market-leading customer experience with strategic long-term brand building, companies build emotional intelligence into their marketing strategy. The product becomes not just more than the sum of its parts but also more than the functional benefit it offers to customers. Consumers will then choose the product, often without considering competitors, because of the emotional relationship they have with it.
This is a clear example of brand building showing a measurable impact on short-term goals.
"It's not a question of brand-building or growth," said Tanja Grubner, marketing & communications director FemCare, global brand, innovation & sustainability at Essity. "They are entwined and [the debate] is giving people an excuse to do one thing and forget the rest."
Uber’s Stal also made the point that solid brand equity can help a company grow beyond its original business model. "We need to re-educate marketers on the importance of long- and short-term activity. Just as you need growth now to power your business over time, so too do you need to build brand equity with those growth tactics to allow your company to take customers with it as it changes and grows."
One of the problems with the short-term versus long-term false dichotomy, according to Coca-Cola’s Hidvegi, is that it unfairly stigmatises strategies that boost immediate growth. "Short-term doesn’t need to be a dirty word," said Richard Parkinson, global creative director at Archetype. "We should look at how we think about that and rename it."
Indeed, "we need a different vocabulary, with different connotations," Hidvegi suggested. "We need to rename the baby, to help people love it."
*In the debate: Tatiana Vivienne Jouanneau, chief marketing officer, Duracell; Patrick Stal, head of marketing, Uber; Tanja Grubner, marketing & communications director FemCare, global brand, innovation & sustainability, Essity; Nick Robinson, chief marketing officer and managing director of brands, Kerry Foods; Richard Parkinson, global creative director, Archetype; Mia Ropponen, vice president marketing, grocery trade, K Group; Mark Cripps, chief marketing officer, The Economist; Tricia Weener, global head of B2B marketing, HSBC; Maisie McCabe, deputy editor (chair), Campaign and Tom Hidvegi, creative strategy lead, CEE, The Coca-Cola Company.
Archetype is a global marketing communications agency, partnering with category creators and industry leaders to build the world’s most magnetic brands.