Is Efficiency Killing Brands?
Digital marketing has unleashed an obsession with efficiency and short-termism, one that’s trading long-term brand-building for short-term ROI. We’ve put the golden goose in a battery farm of scientific efficiency, and it’s killing the brand, business growth and profit.
Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Motorola, for example, have raised the issue recently. This past summer, the world’s largest advertiser, P&G, announced it had slashed digital budgets by $140 million, and yet, sales still went up. In July, Motorola CMO Jan Huckfeldt went on the record saying, “If you want to revive a brand and you really want to build a brand quickly, if you bank on social and digital, it’s not going to work.”
This isn’t an attack on digital, but on the short-term thinking it has created. With digital and big data came tighter targeting and a razor-sharp focus on short-term ROI. Yet, ROI increases are an addictive drug, one that’s hollowing out the brand and leaving an empty carcass.
Digital has also opened up endless possibilities for one-to-one connections. But this has been filled with cheaply produced, vacuous, branded moments that people skip or avoid with ad blockers.
“Digital metrics are very short-term focused, and that has led marketers into a short-term mindset,” Field explains. “A lot of people in management do not have marketing backgrounds, and find the short-term argument seductive. They are judged quarter by quarter, and they want results, by quarter. I wish we had more CEOs and CFOs that understand if we restrain marketing to the quarterly cycle, we stuff it.”
The problem with short-termism and a focus on ROI is it forces marketing to concentrate on the lowest-hanging fruit, targeting only those most likely to buy. You get a rewarding boost in ROI, but not long-term profit.
We need to get back to building campaigns for long-term effects. Focusing on attracting brand new buyers to drive penetration. Reaching all category buyers and not just the low-hanging fruit. Investing in “Never Finished” ideas that pay back again and again, instead of disposable communications. Ideas that people want to come back to, that keep intriguing them, make brands famous.
We need to break free of the short-termism and micro-targeting that digital has spawned. They have important roles to play, but so do brand-building campaigns. “Digital first” is a dangerous phrase, if it means brand second.
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