Tuesday, 17 April 2012

We'll build the brand. As soon as we work out what it means.

My move away from London to work with smaller advertisers has seen me thinking a lot about the fundamentals of what we do in media agencies. When you work with smaller businesses, very often you deal with their owners rather than with marketing specialists. These are clever people, but they haven't been immersed in marketing-speak for the past ten years and jargon needs to be explained. It's plain English marketing and all the more refreshing for the fact that you can't get away with throwing buzzwords around and assuming everybody's with you all the way.

There are lots of examples to pick from. We take Search ads for granted in media land now and if you're a marketer who doesn't know how Google search auctions work then you should be ashamed of yourself. A retail business owner whose company has been around for 30 years however, needs the intricacies of search explained in a simple way. He doesn't just implicitly assume that search should be part of his media mix in the way a modern marketer probably would.

There's a word that has the potential to tie even the most sophisticated marketer in knots when asked to explain what it means. It's a word we use a lot. It's at the very heart of what we do.

Why do marketers struggle so badly to explain what brand means?

This goes to the heart of the modern malaise in marketing. Branding - brand building - is what we do. But we cant explain what it means.

It's like... well it's like wallpapering fog, which is how this blog got its name. Brand looks solid. It looks like a strong concept. Then you try to hang a definition on it and it isn't there.

Here's a dictionary definition:

"A type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name". That's definitely not what agencies mean when they say 'brand'. In fact, we often make a distinction between 'brand advertising' and 'product advertising'. 'Brand advertising' isn't intrinsically tied to the product, so what the hell is it? We're in real trouble now, because the dictionary definition, where a sensible non-marketer might look to understand what the hell his agency is banging on about, isn't what we mean.

"We don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand. We get them to love our brand by convincing them to try our product." @AdContrarian

Just throwing that one in there as a counterpoint to the idea that brand and product advertising are different. In all honesty, I agree with the statement above, but it's not what marketers usually mean when they say 'brand ad'. It's even from a guy who calls himself Contrarian.

So back to trying to explain what brand building means, if it doesn't mean just selling more product. I can see the finance director twitching...

It's not just making people 'like' you. (It's especially not just persuading them to click a button with 'like' written on it.)

It's not just making customers feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves, if that doesn't eventually lead to some increased sales. (It's not, right? We do need to sell stuff in the end.)

For me, brand means that through advertising, consumers get more value from a product than it has intrinsically. They show a preference for that product and are willing to pay more for it, for reasons that are not a part of the product's objective quality.

That's a bit of a mouthful. My Yorkshire retailer's bullshit alarm is flashing amber.

Let's try:

"Branding is persuading people to pay more for our product, without improving it."

As an economist, I'm happy with that. Not what you thought it meant? OK, but you need a one liner that concisely explains what branding means, or advertising agencies will continue to struggle to explain how they add value to a business.

Next, up on Wallpapering Fog: 'Engagement'.

This might well turn into a series of marketing buzzwords, defined one at a time for impatient Yorkshiremen with no time for bullshit. In the end, we will be able to explain in simple terms, what on earth it is that we do.

This is important. As a great man once said...

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself" Albert Einstein.

1 comment:

Mike said...

All a brand is is a bunch of attributes (and values if you're feeling fancy) that customers will identify with. And so feel more comfortable about buying the products. Oh, and pay more for them!