Marketers today have more of everything: more consumer touchpoints, more platforms, more data—and consequently more pressure to deliver short-term results. As a result of these converging forces, we’ve seen an appreciable swing in recent years away from established principles of brand growth and toward short-term thinking and decision-making that is counter to what will truly build a brand. For agencies, charged with the thoughtful stewardship of their clients’ brands, a shift away from proven Marketing principles and to a conversion-at-all-costs mindset has had its own repercussions.
As agencies strive to maintain their rightful places as strategic brand partners, they’re often assigned and evaluated against tactical imperatives that do not serve brand interests in the long term. This does a disservice to both brands and agencies. Let’s take a look at common disconnects that have emerged along the consumer’s journey toward purchase and the fundamental principles that agencies can help their clients to reprioritize.
Awareness: You Need More Than Virality to Scale a Message
If you attend any given industry conference these days, you’re sure to see plenty of marketers take to the stage to discuss the impressive results yielded by a recent influencer or social media campaign. Indeed, these campaigns are fun to talk about, but they’re far from the entire picture of what it takes to drive the awareness at scale critical to fuel the funnel and sustain business growth over time. Social media and word-of-mouth initiatives should be considered as a part of an integrated campaign—not the entirety of a campaign.
Social media is a clear complement to TV viewing. A recent study showed that 84 percent of the top 10 trending Twitter topics in primetime were about ad-supported TV. The immediacy, scale, and sense of community offered by television inspires passionate viewers to engage with each other in real-time and in large numbers. In fact, most Marketing efforts that “go viral” do so because of the mass exposure they receive from broad media coverage.
As strategic partners to brands, agencies must continue to urge their clients to think beyond limited activations on the buzziest platforms.
Consideration: Brand Health and Profitability Go Hand in Hand
Given the increasing short-term financial pressure being put on today’s CMOs and brand leaders, a greater focus has been placed on short-term, conversion-oriented tactics within today’s Marketing organizations. Consequently, agencies are also evaluated according to these metrics. The challenge, of course, is that an agencies’ long-term relationship with a client also relies on helping the brand to grow its business over time.
When conversion-oriented tactics are prioritized, brand-building efforts are often deprioritized under the misconception that brand health does not have a significant impact on sales or profitability. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is incumbent upon agencies to remind their clients that brand health drives profitability over the long term.
A number of studies have reached similar conclusions when it comes to the link between brand health and profitability: Short-term Marketing tactics can drive sales. But brand building is what “future proofs” a brand for sustained growth. After all, it’s the power of a brand and the emotional connection it builds with consumers that ultimately prompts people considering a purchase to prefer one brand over another.
Further, brands can draw on that power to help them overcome short-term challenges like pricing disparities or bad online reviews. Simply put, brand-building leads to increased and sustained profitability in the long term.
Purchase: Brands Can Balance Both Short- and Long-Term Growth
Marketers mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that established Marketing principles and channels apply only to established, legacy brands. Even nascent brands that find their initial success in performance-driven digital channels quickly discover that continued growth requires them to balance their short-term activations with long-term brand vision. Fortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Today’s disruptive direct-to-consumer brands represent the ultimate example of fast-growing companies that are able to drive immediate purchases while also building the kind of brand equity that turns them into household names. While companies like Peloton, Warby Parker, Wayfair and Casper proved themselves masters of data-fueled, performance-driven social and search advertising early in their brand journeys, they quickly realized that achieving the scale they needed to fuel their customer base for the long-term while still driving immediate demand required them to expand outside of their initial digital efforts. Subsequently, they have also proven themselves adept at telling their brand stories through mass reach channels like Out-of-home, Radio, and Television.
Whether representing emerging DTC players or 100-year-old established brands, agencies should continue to bring clients fully developed campaigns that will both fuel the funnel and drive immediate demand. Here again, agencies must be advisors: Clients need to understand the value in both elements to driving business growth over the long term.
Agencies are partners with their clients in ensuring the growth of the brands they serve—and that means they can and should play a key role in helping their stay keenly focused on the principles that will drive success. To do this, they must develop media strategies for their clients that engage and drive outcomes at each stage of the consumer journey, from awareness through purchase.