Combining the power of short and long-term effects to improve brand performance
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Getting your hands dirty; mediating the messy reality of combining the long and the short of marketing approaches

There should probably be statues somewhere of Les Binet and Peter Field. Their comprehensive, considered and rigorous work into the effectiveness of marketing has hugely influenced the industry – to the point where its essentially unofficial agency law to reference their findings in your thinking.

I’ve always however found their short vs long-term marketing step chart a little overly-theoretical. The logic is clearly sound and the general findings of course backed-up, but the danger is that its (over?) simplicity misses the messier reality of the real world.

Les Binet and Peter Field’s illustration of the impact – in general terms – of brand-building vs sales activation marketing activities, via Gracious Economics

Happy days then, as Dr Grace Kite from Gracious Economics has recently shared a trove of real-world examples and findings based on twenty years’ worth of economics projects.

The data proves out Binet and Field’s work, with evidence that many real-world brands drive growth via incremental sales when both sales-activation and brand-based activities are deployed.

“This advertiser’s email activity worked well to drive sales in the week it mailed and the week after. But, just as Les and Peter’s analysis predicts, the business didn’t begin to see growth until they increased their investment into longer-lived brand-building activity on TV.” Source

Beyond the general model holding up to real-world analysis, some addition messier and interesting examples were also identified – not all with positive growth stories. For example there were cases where the addition of more brand-based activities were unsuccessful, and unfortunately abandoned in favour of the more immediate wins.

“Four brand campaigns on TV were tried and found to have neither long-lived effects nor a positive return on investment. After evaluation, the advertiser understandably gave up and reallocated budget away from brand and into short-term sales activation online.” Source

There also a lovely example of a case where initial use of social and TV didn’t product long-term effects. When an alternative TV creative was paired with radio however, the advertiser saw incremental sales growth. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (tho obviously with a considered test and learn agenda and performance benchmarks to ascertain success metrics).

“Initial experiments with social only had a short-lived effect and TV creative X was not strong enough to produce a long-lasting effect. It was only when they switched to creative Y on TV and radio that advertising was able to deliver growth.” Source

Working with Tom Roach (who, as an aside, wrote a great piece on the current state of brand purpose-based marketing worth reading if you haven’t already), they have developed an adapted view of the Binet and Field model – which combines both short-and long term effects as force-multipliers, as opposed to a long and short of it trade-off.

Having real-world examples – with all their sometimes messy and not always first-time successful outcomes – makes for a valuable addition to the general evidence available to support the case for investment in both short-term sales activation and longer-term brand building marketing activties.

And it is both.

As Tom notes on his blog post to accompany the research, “whilst the theory says we should all try to achieve a balanced approach in order to maximise both saleability and sales simultaneously, there’s a massive gulf between the theory and the actual practice, which is increasingly divided between practitioners of ‘brand’ and ‘performance’ marketing.”

Its unfortunately true that the two effects are too often seen as a trade-off. Of course they work hand in hand. If that’s a lesson for the best of times, its an even more important reminder whilst navigating our current moment. Both are needed, and you won’t always get the combination it right first time.

Its also true that all too often the focus is purely on return on investment, rather than growth – an analysis in which its easier for pure short-termist approaches to win out. Ensuring that we optimise to effectiveness goals, rather than to efficiency-based outcomes, is crucial if we are to ensure that we maximise growth opportunities.

Efficiency (including ROI analysis) is a means to an effectiveness end.

My very awesome colleague Malcolm Devoy discussed this, and the broader challenges and opportunities for brands navigating this Covid moment in the first of eatbigfish and PHD’s Challenger Strategies podcast.

Adam Morgan, founder of eatbigfish, and Malcolm Devoy, Chief Strategy Officer at PHD EMEA, discuss how the media landscape has changed for brands and the opportunities to build brand value through creativity and challenger thinking.

Dr Kite’s generous sharing of her work is a reminder – as if we needed it – of the need to mediate the long vs short absolutist elements of media planning and practice; but also a timely reminder that there are very few silver bullets. The combination of media and marketing efforts that unlock growth won’t always be found first time, and never in power-pointed theoreticals.

To navigate, and win, in a messy world – you have to get your hands dirty.

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