In praise of consistency
Advertising was omnipresent in the 1980s and 1990s, my formative decades. It provided chart hits, think Levi’s inspired elevation of 60s soul classics. Language, with “Take a break…” or “You’ve been Tangoed” becoming playground staples. And drama, the will they, won’t they Gold Blend couple, for example.
These decades also determined what the majority knew a breed of dog as. For Labrador Retriever read Andrex puppy. No wonder, the brand’s character had already been the star of its advertising for upwards of 15 years by the time I first saw it.
This year, the Andrex puppy is 50. The brand remains the market leader in a category that has seen considerable change in that half century. Talking to Marketing Week this week, UK and Ireland marketing director of parent company Kimberly-Clark, Matt Stone, said: “It’s a really important brand equity mark. It’s a consistent memory structure and a lot of brands spend a lot of time looking for a piece of mental availability or icon like that, so we’re really lucky.”
Correct in his reading of the virtues of consistency, but I would question his assertion that others do covet what Andrex has. They should for sure, but there is an inherent need to fiddle among some brands, aided and abetted by their agencies. Often a sense that standing still is moving backwards. That consistency is a sign of creative inadequacy.
Advertising is a craft and, as the succession of Andrex brand guardians that preceded Stone realised, if it isn’t broken don’t meddle. Evolution is often braver than revolution.
Making the case
The IPA, the representative body for agencies, has run a campaign in the FT this week carrying the message “come back in a year and tell us if cutting your budget was a good idea”. It’s a message aimed at the clients of their constituents, both in marketing and finance. Self-serving as it is, behind this message is a deeply held belief that cutting back on investment in your brand in lean times will have a long-term negative impact on mental availability and consideration.
There is plenty of evidence to support this. Of course, for those businesses facing up to a huge increase in costs, and the very real challenge of survival, the IPA’s message might fall on deaf ears. However, amid the gathering storm, the virtues of brand investment seem to be growing in resonance.
As part of our Language of Effectiveness series, we asked brand marketers how they blended brand and performance marketing. Across categories, and size of organisations, most respondents were spending more time and money on brand marketing over performance.
It’s a surprising, even refreshing picture, particularly the one painted by SMEs, the group received wisdom would have it eschews short-term tactics.
Media inflation and pressure on costs is going to put stress on the brand/performance mix, inevitably. Those that already lean towards performance tell us the motivation is the pursuit of ROI and short-term returns. The need for both, and the pressure to deliver for all, is only going to increase.
“Is it 2010?”- just one of the rather sneery comments that accompanied our posting of a story this week. The article in question reported data from LinkedIn that found “digital” trumps strategy as a skill listed by marketers on the professional network.
Some sceptics point to the redundancy of digital as a skill in a job where digital is pervasive. Others that it’s indicative of the triumph of tactics over strategy. Both camps are right. Post-pandemic, however, it is necessary.
Calling back to Mark Ritson’s column last year detailing the language necessary to land a job now that every company has been forced to accelerate their digital transformation, those who are able to demonstrate their digital and data capability are in the box seat. As we have reported, it’s what’s demanded and increasingly better remunerated. Strategy and brand management should always come first, but for now what marketers say and what’s important aren’t necessarily the same.
Stat of the week
76.2% – the percentage of marketers wanting to see the further integration of marketing effectiveness metrics in decision making
One of the responses to the above finding, again from our exclusive Language of Effectiveness survey was: “What’s stopping you? Why are you not doing this?” This ponderance-come-rallying-call from Gareth Turner, former Weetabix marketer now consultant.
His agitation is well founded. Reacting to the stat, Paddy Power’s marketing lead Michelle Spillane added: “With 76% of people still saying effectiveness needs to come to the fore to assist business decision making, there are too many marketers feeling like their area is considered a cost and a drain on resources, as opposed to a lever for growth.”
It’s encouraging that there is intent to embed effectiveness, but it also reveals a disconnect. That what is measured, indeed how effectiveness is defined, is still lacking. An issue we will continue to explore in the series. And one that will continue to be a barrier to greater influence for marketers if not addressed.
The week ahead
We have lots more to come on marketing effectiveness, with the next deep dive as part of our Language of Effectiveness series looking at whether too much focus is put on ROI.