A New Way Of Approaching Communications Planning Part Two: Transaction Planning

…because I believe brands should only invest in marketing
communications through existing users of their brand


Collateral: Why building it is no guarantee they will come

One response to media abundance has been the creation and
deployment of a whole range of collateral designed to add value to
customers.  In their own right the
examples of collateral described above are largely designed to, and therefore
may very well function as, opportunities to mitigate defections (ie increase
loyalty).  In some instances they may
also function as pre-cursors for word of mouth. 
The creation of such collateral however is not enough.

Let me say that again. 
Creating the collateral is not enough.

Advocacy – through word of mouth – works when one individual
has knowledge or information about a branded product or service that someone
else doesn’t.  Even in the case of two
individuals being aware of the same brand or branded collateral, there is
increased incentive to discuss it if one person knows more about it than the

For example two individuals may both be aware of Orange
Wednesdays; but only one knowing about a recent movie release creates the
incentive to discuss.  Or whilst both may
be aware of Orange Wednesdays, one may think that the number of tickets is
limited.  They are not.  The other would have the opportunity to
correct them.  Word of mouth is sparked
by a knowledge differential.

Currently brands largely and unwisely rely on the individual
with that knowledge or information to volunteer it to another individual.  By themselves.  With everything they’ve got going on in their
content-abundant time-poor lives.  Brands
at best encourage word of mouth on an individual basis and at worst just pray
that the positive experiences they create for their customers will be

We’re relying solely on Gladwell’s law of the few; the
connectors, Mavens and Salespeople “with a particular and rare set of social
skills” (see note 1), to instigate word of mouth.  Instead, we should be creating the potential
for every existing customer to become an instigator.  Rather than limiting ourselves to Pareto’s
twenty percent (see note 2) we should be encouraging advocacy through word of
mouth amongst all one hundred percent of existing customers at our disposal.

And that is only addressing one side of the equation.  The other side of the equation are the
potential customers who aren’t given reasons to specifically ask their peers –
their influencers (see note 3) – about a brand, because brands and their
agencies don’t give them reasons to do so. 
Collateral, when it is deployed, is only delivered to existing
customers.  Potential customers remain
unaware of its existence.

Planning for Transactions

This is the final and most crucial element of the holistic
planning process being proposed in this paper. 
That it’s not enough to create and deploy collateral to existing
customers.  In addition to broadcasting
the existence of collateral to existing consumers, we must also deliberately
expose potential consumers to the existence of that same collateral.

I call it Transaction Planning; communicating to existing
customers – via mass media – the existence of collateral with the deliberate
intention that its existence is overheard by potential customers.  The result being that we create the conditions
within which existing customers are best placed to ‘transact’ with potential

Transaction_planning Figure 3: Transaction Planning; communicating to existing
customers – via mass media – the existence of collateral with the deliberate
intention that its existence is overheard by potential customers

We turn the (perceived) inefficiency of broadcast media to
our advantage by using the same communication to publicise customer collateral
to existing customers (thereby reinforcing its existence and credibility) as
well as to potential customers (thereby communicating its existence).  Every impact we plan and buy becomes
valuable; as Sameer Modha put it when I discussed this theory with him “you’re
releasing media planners from the tyranny of CPTs” (see note 4).

In planning for Transactions; not only are existing
customers encouraged to discuss and advocate a brand, and not only are
potential customers encouraged to enquire about said brand; but communications
provide them with a common precursor and language to do so (see note 5).

Launching a brand

The principles outlined in this essay also support creation
of a brand from scratch.  Franzen
established that smaller brands are largely dependent on increasing their
penetration to drive growth (see note 6). 
The Loyalty approach would see creation of a small critical mass of
consumers – either via sampling or by partnering with a distributor – to which
we apply the collateral / communication paradigm.

In Microtrends Mark Penn argues that once you have one
percent you have enough of a base to “create new markets for a business, spark
a social movement, or produce political change” (see note 7).  It is possible, and I believe preferable, to
establish then grow a small audience; you just need to understand how.


1. Malcolm Gladwell. 
The Tipping Point. 

2. The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the
law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for
many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

3. The term given by Blades and Phillips to the individuals
to whom information about a branded product or service is sought.  Fiona Blades and Stephen Phillips.  Decision Watch UK.  MRS Conferences 2005

4. Sameer Modha, planner at Partners Andrews Aldridge – as
quoted in an interview for this essay.

5. In addition a significant leap we have to make is in how
as planners we categorise consumers. 
With Transaction Planning they are not an undifferentiated mass to which
we broadcast branded messages, but nor are they distinct segments of
like-minded individuals who will be most responsive to our message.  With Transaction Planning, people are a
channel in their own right.

6. Giep Franzen.  Brands
and Advertising: How advertising effectiveness influences brand equity.

7. Mark
(Author), E.
Kinney Zalesne
.  Microtrends: The
Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes. 
Penn and Zalesne argue that the biggest trends in America are the
microtrends — the smaller trends that go unnoticed.

Tomorrow: the Transaction Planning agency
Thursday: A holistic approach to metrics

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