Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Can You Spend Brand Awareness?

This is an odd question to ask, but it's relevant when it comes to marketing. Why is that, you ask?

Because it ties into the seemingly never-ending debate between the merits of ad agency "branding" (or image)-type marketing... and old-fashioned direct-response marketing. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know that my bias is towards the latter.

The reason I thought of this question was because of a meeting I had with two local radio hosts. I met with them to see how I could increase the effectiveness of their advertisers' radio ads. The better response they get from their ads... the more sales and money they would make... and that would increase the chances they would stick with this radio show as a longer-term advertiser.

Makes perfect sense, right? Well.... not exactly.

As I explained the difference between direct-response and branding-type marketing, it was obvious that one of the hosts wasn't sold on it. He starts asking question after question about "if" direct-response marketing was effective... and the one question that he asked (that I wish I had this answer for at the time) was:

"Well, what about brand awareness in marketing?" 

My natural instinct was to give a smart-ass answer and say: "Well, what about it?" But that wouldn't have done much good to avoid an argument.

Let me take a step back and explain this marketing theory.

Ad agency folks love to talk about "brand awareness" because they tell their clients that the more you get your name in the marketplace... the more people will be aware of your brand... and eventually this will lead to more sales and cash flow. But - these "creative gurus" will tell you - this will take time for their creative genius to work its magic, and get the results you want.

Never mind the fact that you can't track how well the ads or campaign are working. Just trust them, keep giving them your money... and eventually it should work out alright. And the more time it takes to "get your name out there," the more money you're paying for unaccountable marketing.

Let's get back to the topic: "Can You Spend Brand Awareness?"

Go to a Starbucks and order your favorite beverage, then ask the clerk if you can pay for it in brand awareness. He or she will look at you like you're crazy, and rightfully so.

Obviously you can't spend brand awareness to buy the material things you want in this life. So why should your marketing be focused on something that's difficult (if not impossible) to measure... and is useless to buy the things you want?

I like marketing that you can measure, monitor and adjust, and will bring in US dollars... fungolas... Federal Reserve Notes - and lots of them. When done correctly, that's what direct-response marketing will do for any business.

Forget about being cool or creative, unless it increases your sales and positive cash flow. If an ad agency or or marketing consultant talks about brand awareness instead of results, snap your wallet shut and end the meeting. Then find a marketing professional who believes in accountable, results-oriented marketing - and not some half-baked yuppie fantasy.

You'll save time, energy and frustration, and have more business success.