Um axioma raramente questionado entre profissionais de marketing (especialmente de produtos de grande consumo) e de comunicação (especialmente nas agências de publicidade) é que a tarefa mais importante da comunicação é criar uma forte imagem de marca, sendo a publicidade o instrumento mais apto para isso.
Consequentemente, boa parte da comunicação de marketing que se faz por aí é comunicação de imagem. E a muitos publicitários chega a não ocorrer a necessidade – ou eventual superioridade – de nenhuma outra.
Há quem ache, no entanto, que pelo menos em certos casos – muitos, seguramente, na área do business-to-business – a imagem da marca não deve ser um efeito directo da comunicação de imagem, mas quase um efeito secundário da comunicação de vendas. E que esta deveria recorrer, mais do que à publicidade, a ferramentas mais mensuráveis, ainda que menos glamourosas – caso do marketing directo. Bill Fryer, no artigo abaixo, explica as razões.
“Why direct marketing is a better brand building tool than conventional brand image advertising
by Bill Fryer MA Oxon – firstname.lastname@example.org
A whole industry has grown up around the need to promote and build brands, but Bill Fryer argues that brand image is no substitute for brand reality.
No one can dispute the power of a brand; the effect is very plain in direct marketing. Almost without exception a mailing by a big brand will significantly outpull one by a lesser known or unknown brand. Brands give you and me something to trust, reassurance of quality and increasingly, status.
What is frequently debated is how to make one with the power to increase sales. I won’t make any friends for saying it but there are any number of people who will tell you that what you need to do is spend £5,000,000 a year on prime time TV advertising for about 20 years – not a prospect I would relish.
People have difficulty understanding how to create powerful brands because it is very difficult to work out the personality of something completely intangible. In my opinion the best way to look at brands is to think of them as people. Allow me to explain…
If you were getting to know me you might read something about me, you might talk to some of my friends, you might pick up some juicy gossip about me or you might have seen some of my work. With all this information from all these different sources you form an opinion about me. If all of this information consistently says “Bill Fryer is a great guy” you might approach me and strike up a conversation or start working with me on some project.
When you start talking to me and being with me however you start to discover the reality of me – a great guy but, bad breath, arrogant and at times highly obnoxious. (Actually I’m really not that bad I just said it like that for effect). The point is that when you actually interact with me you get the information you need to form your own opinions about me, and that is much more powerful than the reported information you based your initial conclusions on.
Brands are the same. You can spend all the money you like buying chunks of airtime in which to compose messages saying how great you are, paying celebrities and beautiful people to espouse your charms, and using PR to manipulate the media to say great things about you. But if the time comes when the customer tries your product and finds it sucks or rings up to complain and gets a “nothing to do with us” attitude or gets a series of overly heavy correspondence about some trivial matter – then they start to get a real picture of your brand; the brand reality.
The converse is also true. If your advertising and PR isn’t particularly hot but ‘wow’ are you nice, pleasant people to deal with and ‘hey’ does your product work well, that kind of brand message gets passed around. True it takes a little more time if you don’t advertise it but it is most certainly the approach that works best in the long term.
Now direct marketing by definition involves a company interacting with its customers. And that is why I say that direct marketing is a far more powerful brand building tool than conventional broad brush approaches. Evidence for this is plain to see: Reader’s Digest, American Express and Tango are all examples of powerful brands built on direct marketing. Recently Viking office supplies was sold for over £1 billion. We’ve all seen their catalogues – not the most attractive in the world, but have you ever dealt with them? They really deliver. And the power of their brand is reflected in the sale price of the company.
Also I have to say that for many products, especially those that are low cost everyday items, like most foods for example, this broadcast approach is often enough – but not always.
That is why Tango is such an interesting example. As a soft drink brand you might have thought they don’t need to interact with their customers – my point above – and the product is too cheap to merit conventional direct marketing methods. But they were languishing on the sidelines until their famous orange man campaign. Some of their campaigns have generated over 100,000 responses. The point here is that by choosing to follow a strategy of interacting with their customers they have successfully differentiated themselves from the competition with prodigious results. Why aren’t their competitors doing anything similar?
In my ever so humble, albeit at times outspoken, opinion any marketer’s focus should always be primarily on how they can improve the reality of their brand and then how they can communicate that to the widest possible audience.
Then there is the vexed question of brand equity. I am often horrified to read of companies that make a financial calculation of their brand worth – which then appears on the balance sheet – based on how much they have spent on advertising. Mainly because I know of several companies that have launched multi-million pound advertising campaigns only to see sales drop as a result. Dr Andrew Ehrenberg states that the value of your brand is how many customers you have. What else could it logically be?
The value of your brand is defined as the added value in sales generated by the brand’s goodwill compared to a baseline of an unknown brand. If an unknown brand has zero customers and your well-known brand has 100,000 good customers then that surely is the basis for working out the value of your brand on the balance sheet. But without a corporate database of customers how can you tell how many you have or who they are? And how can you communicate directly with them when you need to?
Using the human analogy again if I have 100 good friends in my address book and you have 50 in yours is not my brand twice the value of yours?
I’m not knocking the power of conventional brand image advertising, I fully acknowledge the power of campaigns like Marlboro, BMW and those for Apple Macintosh. I just believe that if you want to create a really valuable brand, focus on the reality first and the image second. And direct marketing is all about brand reality.”