Challenging times for brand building

A Forrester report in Campaign from late 2021 claims shockingly that only a third of USA ceos think their marketing chiefs grow business. This just doesn’t ring true to me. Every CMO I’ve met is driven by growing business, effectiveness and creativity. Is there an issue with the language of branding in those board rooms?

The increase in ad bombardment has consequences for trust and interest in advertising.  60% of adults say that they see too many ads and as media consultant Nick Manning has written: “The user experience is suffering and the traditional compact between the public and the ad industry that held the acceptance of advertising in balance has eroded as some of the old controls fell away.” 

Forbes writer Emilia Kirk explains: “Attention is a finite resource. On average, people are exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 advertisements a day. The average human brain is simply incapable of processing such a bombardment of content, which means the vast majority of ads seen are only ignored or forgotten about within seconds.  As the number of advertisements encountered increases, so has the hostility towards them.”

There has been evidence of a worrying drop in effectiveness in the UK according to WARC’s ranking.  Some of this may be mitigated by the biannual cycle of IPA Effectiveness awards (last year was an off year), but we need to pay attention to these findings.  Campaign reporter Daniel Farey-Jones states: “Between 2014, when the WARC Effectiveness report debuted, and 2019, the UK consistently occupied the second spot in the country ranking for the most awarded campaigns around the world.  However, it placed third in 2020, fourth in 2021 and now seventh in the 2022 ranking.”  As I wrote in the last IPA Advertising Works 25 book introduction: “It’s our collective responsibility to champion effectiveness and its measurement for the ultimate health of our sector.  Any business that doesn’t do this, that doesn’t put effectiveness at the heart and centre, and through every muscle and sinew of activity is short-changing its own future.”

A downward spiral must be avoided where declining proved effectiveness, diminished public trust in advertising and the noted board brand rift in major organisations all contribute to diminished outcomes for our sector.

We can turn this around.

We can improve the relevancy of advertising by aligning media and creative and this will drive trust and enjoyment of advertising.  Do you remember when you were a kid how every ad break in kids commercial TV was like a brilliant catalogue of toys that you loved?  What if every ad you saw was relevant to you?  And frequency was capped to ensure no wastage.  This would break that cycle of bombardment and  mistrust.  W hen data, media and creative are optimised in concert, effectiveness increases significantly.  This is the start of the fifth age of advertising

We must all take responsibility for effectiveness measurement.  There was a strong showing in 2020 in the IPA Effectiveness awards, when I was convenor, producing a truly inspirational body of work, and I expect to see the same this year under the Convenor Harjot Singh, Global CSO, McCann and his team of judges.   However, every leader in our sector must make sure that effectiveness is built into their, and their teams’ objectives and key results. 

In addition, it may be that we should consider adapting the language of branding to fit the board room.  My long term esteemed colleague and performance legend David Kyffin used to tease me by referring to me and my team as the “brand bunnies” as if this was a less serious part of the advertising mix.  He believed however that great brands drive great performance and that brilliant performance and of course customer experience do support great brands.  Yet the lack of knowledge revealed by The IPA and FT research “ The board brand rift”, which tells us that over half of business leaders rated their knowledge of brand-building as average to very poor, indicates that understanding brand building is not a priority for those leaders.  Is language part of the problem?  Let’s talk instead about building value and generating demand.

Branding just might need a rebrand.

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