Conflicts in the marketing system

I do sometimes hear an ad agency people say “we don’t care about creative awards, we are totally dedicated to each client’s business objectives”, especially when in front of clients.  It makes me wonder whether they are lying (that’s bad), or that they are deluding themselves (which may even be worse), or if they are admitting that they simply aren’t good enough to win creative awards (and that’s not good either).

I think it is important to be grown-up, honest and up-front about conflicts of interest.e.g. Martin Sorrell wants to sell marketers stuff, his empire (like his competitors) will sell whatever marketers will buy that he can deliver profitably.  This matters far more to the agency than whether or not it is the best way to build their clients’ brands.

Creatives want to win awards.  And if this doesn’t sell a single extra of your product they aren’t really worried.

Media agencies want to do what they know, what’s easy, and they have to honour sell media they have committed to buy.

Market research agencies want to sell standardised products, ideally that use automated data collection and analysis, or low-level people.  They can’t make big profits from stuff that requires in-depth analysis by expensive people.  They do far more R&D into reducing data collection costs than into better research.

Retailers want to win share from other retailers.  They don’t care if this means selling another box of your product or not.

So partners yes.  But there are conflicts in the system.  This is fine, so long as everyone understands the conflicts then they can be managed – it’s possible for everyone to win.  But pretending these don’t exist is dangerous.

Professor Byron Sharp

July 2014.

Brand and Advertising Awareness: A Replication and Extension of a Known Empirical Generalisation

Romaniuk, Jenni, Sharp, Byron, Paech, Sam & Driesener, Carl (2004) “Brand and advertising awareness: A replication and extension of a known empirical generalisation” Australasian Marketing Journal, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 70-80.

Abstract

From analysis of over 39 categories Laurent, Kapferer and Roussel (1995) found that top of mind, spontaneous and aided brand awareness measures have the same underlying structure. The difference in scores appears due to the difficulty of the measure. We have successfully replicated this work and extended it to similarly structured advertising awareness measures. However, additional analyses then revealed that while there is a good category level fit, modelling a single brand over time is less successful. Indeed, Laurent et al.’s excellent cross-sectional fit appears due to substantially different levels of salience between larger and smaller brands. This suggests that while the different types of awareness tend to vary with a brand’s overall level of salience, this does not mean that the different measures simply reflect a single underlying construct. Further, our finding challenges the previous authors’ claim that knowing the score for one measure allows the estimation of the score for another measure. Instead, the model provides useful norms against which to compare actual scores.

Keywords: Brand awareness, Advertising awareness, Empirical generalisation

Download the whole article as PDF.

Emotional Branding Pays Off illusion

Behavioural loyalty is strongly correlated with propensity to agree to ‘brand love’ survey questions but…… most lovers still buy other brands, and most of a brand’s buyers don’t love it.

John Rossiter & Steve Bellman (2012) “Emotional Branding Pays Off – how brands meet share of requirements through bonding, commitment and love”, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol.52, No.3, pages 291-296.

Rossiter and Bellman (2012) purport to show how consumers’ attachment of “strong usage relevant emotions” to a brand affects behavioural loyalty. All they actually show is that if you buy a brand more then you are more likely to agree (on a market research survey) to positive statements about that brand. We’ve known for 50 or so years that people do this – that stated attitudes reflect past behaviour. Or more succinctly: attitudes reflect loyalty.

Specifically Rossiter & Bellman showed that people who ticked “I regard it as ‘my’ brand” tended to report that this brand made up more of their category buying (than for buyers who didn’t (regard it as their brand)). What an amazing discovery!

“I regard it as ‘my’ brand” was, by far, the most common of the ‘emotional attachments’ they measured – with about 20% of the buyer bases of particular brands of beer, instant coffee, gasoline, and laundry detergent ticking this box. It was also most associated with higher share of requirements (behavioural loyalty). I’m not surprised because it is most like a direct measure of behavioural loyalty. If I mostly buy this brand of coffee then I’m much more likely to tick “I regard it as ‘my’ brand”. If I buy another brand(s) more then I’m hardly likely to tick that I regard this one as my special brand.

So reasonably we’d call this question (“I regard it as ‘my’ brand”) a measure of reported behavioural loyalty, and so it would have to be highly associated with any other measure of reported behavioural loyalty. But Rossiter & Bellman in classic sleight-of-hand call this question a measure of “bonding”, which they say is a measure of an emotion (not a self-report of behaviour)! Naughty naughty.

On safer ground their measure of “brand love” was if brand buyers agreed “I would say that I feel deep affection for this brand, like ‘love’, and would be really upset if I couldn’t have it”. Interestingly, hardly any of any brand’s buyers ticked this box. Just 4% of the average beer brand’s (male) buyers, just 4% of the average laundry detergent’s (female) buyers, 8% of the average instant coffee brand’s (female) buyers, and a mere 0.5% of the average gasoline brand’s (male) buyers. Restricting the samples to the specific gender that represents the main weight of buyers reduced the proportion of light and lower involvement category buyers. This would have increased the incidence of brand love yet it was still about as low as is possible. Rossiter & Bellman wrote that these results “reveal the difficulty of attaining strong attachment-like emotions”. Hmmm, well yes and these results also reveal how successful brands largely do without brand love.

With so very few of any brand’s buyers agreeing that they feel deep affection for the brand we would expect the few that did would be quite different from the average. We’d expect that they would be the heaviest, most loyal in the buyer base. And these lovers did report higher behavioural loyalty though it was far from absolute (100% share of category buying). In fact, ‘lovers’ only reported buying the brand about half the time (50% SoR). Behavioural loyalty is strongly correlated with propensity to agree to ‘brand love’ questions but…… most lovers still buy other brands, and most of a brand’s buyers don’t love it.

Rossiter & Bellman interpret their results differently. Their article title says emotional branding pays off, even if the article does nothing to investigate marketing practices. They act as if they are unaware of the research going back decades that shows, over and over, that usage affects propensity to react to attitudinal type survey questions (see Romaniuk & Sharp 2000). Instead, this single cross-sectional survey data is supposed to show that if marketers (somehow) run advertising that presents attachment emotions, then consumers will link these to the brand, and then change their behaviour to buy that brand more often than they buy rival brands. Rossiter and Bellman’s results show nothing of the sort, their clearly written article turns out to be highly misleading. Yet I fear that this will not stop many unscholarly academics citing the article, and many believers in this discredited theory citing it as evidence to support their blind faith. Beware of such nonsense.

Refreshing brand memories after a gap

I haven’t seen a Life Savers ad in ages, most probably because they haven’t been advertising – a lot of brands go “off air” for long periods.

Yet when I saw the ad (see below) the jingle bounced back into my consciousness – thankfully they are still using the slogan.

Advertising exposures that follow a long gap can be particularly powerful memory refreshers.

Unfortunately this is another factor that tempts marketers to go off-air for periods, when the real lesson is don’t bunch your exposures together (burst).

Think how much better effect Life Savers would get if instead of bursts followed by long gaps they just kept on advertising at very low levels. If they did Most of us wouldn’t see a Life Saver ad very often, but we would see them regularly if infrequently and each time they would have a tremendous refreshing effect.

With the burst and silence pattern we seldom ever see Life Saver advertising but when we do we see it several times close together when the 2nd, 3rd and 4th exposures don’t have anywhere near the refreshing effect as the first. That’s wasted advertising money that could have been used to reduce the long silence between bursts.

Get a hole lot more out of your advertising, don’t burst, don’t go off-air. Spend less, for longer.

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Memories affect noticing – of brands and advertising

Our common-sense model of memory, particularly long-term memory, is that it’s like a reference book or a hard-drive – something that we have to go and consult. We go in order to (try to) retrieve something from memory, a bit like going to the library to borrow a book.

But our memories are being used every second, on the fly, in real time. Your ability to read these words depends on this. When you were very young words looked like boring bits of black scribble (and you noticed the pictures instead), as a child you worked hard to get these letters and then words into your head, now they are there and they can be accessed in a micro-second. You can’t help yourself noticing words, you can’t stop it even if you try, but if you want to notice the font shape, or the ink or the pixels then you have to try so much harder. Some things are incredibly easy to notice, others aren’t.

When someone looks at a shelf of brands, or down a street at a range of different shops, they don’t notice half (or more) of what’s there. Some things are so hard to notice, not because they don’t stand out, but because the viewer doesn’t have the necessary memory structures in their head.

One person sees two trees, the other sees an oak and and elm.

When marketers think about noticing they think of things they can do to try to grab attention. Which is fine. But for many this means bright colours, stunts, something NEW, price discounts and so on. Now there is nothing wrong with trying to grab attention with such devices but we have to also remember that noticing depends on memories. If you want your brand to be noticed then you need to build and refresh consistent brand memory structures. Changing a logo is more likely to get you noticed in the marketing press than on shelf.

It’s the same for advertising. Most ads aren’t noticed, or not noticed sufficiently for them to build or refresh brand memories. You need a clever advertising agency to create content that is attractive, that gains some attention, but if you are only relying on the creativity to drive noticing you will fail – people have to notice your brand not just the creative content of the advertisement. To do that you have to work with what’s already inside their heads. Which means undertaking careful research to document existing memory structures, to understand your brand’s distinctive assets.

Digital Age Branding – You are spending your money in all the wrong places – or maybe not

I’ve written before about the army of consultants crying
“consumer behaviour has changed radically”
“marketing doesn’t work anymore”

Who then present nothing more than a repackaging of the orthodoxy. e.g. see my comment on Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”.

There are many marketing assumptions that need to be changed. Yes, practice can be improved. So by all means let’s talk about this, but anyone advocating specific changes should offer supporting evidence, from serious research.

Harvard Business Review recently published a fairly shameless advertorial for McKinsey’s which makes the mundane observation that the digital age has meant some changes in how consumers learn about and buy brands. The article is all hype and assertion, based apparently on McKinsey ‘research’ that has produced results like “60% of consumer facial skin care products now conduct online research on the products after purchase”. Does anyone believe this ? I’d love to see an independent replication.

They boldly announce that advertisers are spending their money in all the wrong places. Gasp, how terrible. Where’s the evidence ?

They write things like “up to 90% of spend goes to advertising and retail promotions. Yet the most powerful impetus to buy is often someone else’s advocacy”. So what is the implication ? That we should spend more money on stimulating word-of-mouth, fine but research shows that advertising is the major stimulus for brand word-of-mouth (1), so that gets us back where we started.

They present a “NEW” model of the consumer decision making process, that starts with consideration, then evaluation, buying, then hopefully enjoying, advocating, bonding and repeat-buying. It’s a terrible rational, highly involved model, just as Howard & Sheth’s original one was back in 1969 (2). Yes with an audacious straight face they present this as new thinking. Their main thesis is that marketers need to consider all these stages and gain touch-points at each. 20 years ago my colleagues Caroline Rowe and David Corkindale presented a near identical idea, they considered it a useful teaching tool, nothing more.

McKinsey go much further to claim that marketers’ advertising spends are commonly hitting people at the wrong times. But they give no evidence. They seem to assume that advertising has no memory effect. There is an in-built assumption that hitting someone at the moment when they are thinking about the brand/category is the only advertising that works.

And they write as if search advertising doesn’t exist. As if marketers don’t already offer ways for consumers to access their brands during active search.

As I said, a fairly shameless advertorial for McKinsey’s services in social media advertising, which could be excused if only they offered some new insight.

References:

(1) Keller, E., & Fay, B. (2009) “The role of advertising in word of mouth”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 154-158.

(2) Howard, J. A., & Sheth, J. N. (1969) “The Theory of Buyer Behavior”, New York: John & Wiley Sons, Inc.

Other reading:
Jamhouri, O., & Winiarz, M. (2009) “The enduring influence of TV advertising and communications clout patterns in the global marketplace”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 227-235.

Rubinson, J. (2009) “Empirical evidence of TV advertising effectiveness”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 220-226.

American marketers can now see the real sales effect of their advertising

Single source (longitudinal, individual level) data is now available in the USA, showing buying and TV advertising exposure.

This is terribly exciting, because this data can, with careful analysis, provide a high quality quasi experiment. That is, without the effort and expense of devising a controlled experiment you can use this live market data to give you the same experimental outcome. You do it by sorting category purchases into those that were preceded by no recent exposures to your advertising and those that were (and further divide these into 1-exposure, 2-exposures etc). Then you simply compare your brand’s share of these different groups of purchase occasions to see the real sales strength of your advertising. Your brand’s share, of course, should be higher amongst purchase occasions that were preceded by your advertising!

This is vastly more trustworthy than trying to achieve the near impossible and quantifying the sales effects of a particular ad using a statistical analysis of aggregate time series data. It’s also much faster, you don’t have to wait a year before finding out what the effect of last year’s advertising was supposed to have been.

TRA and Nielsen Catalina Solutions are two companies that currently offer single-source data by overlapping data from buying panels and TV viewing panels (i.e some households are in both). NCS also monitors on-line and mobile media exposure.

These data let you identify which ads work better so you can drop non-performing ads and drastically improve the effectiveness of your advertising. And you can use this sales effectiveness data to learn how to make better ads.

And you can measure how much incremental effect is gained by additional recent exposures, i.e. is bunching exposures worth it ?

And whether ads work better in different contexts, on different channels, in different pod positions. There is so much valuable information that can be learned once the true sales effect of advertising is known. Much R&D needs to be done.  The potential to improve the sales effectiveness of TV advertising is immense.

Mental availability is not awareness, brand salience is not awareness

A brand’s mental availability refers to the probability that a buyer will notice, recognize and/or think of a brand in buying situations.  It depends on the quality and quantity of memory structures related to the brand.  See chapter 12 of “How Brands Grow“.

So this is much more than awareness, whether that is top-of-mind awareness, recognition or recall.  Indeed all of these measures are flawed by the use of a single, a-situational, cue (usually the product category name, i.e. what the marketer calls the product category).

And mental availability is not attitude.  It’s not about what consumers like about the brand, or not.  Though the better a consumer knows a brand the better they tend to feel about it – familiarity breeds contentment.

A brand’s availability varies across situations, so higher mental availability means being easily noticed and/or thought of in many different buying situations.  Some brands do well in some particular situations, some do well in many situations.  Some do well with a few consumers, some do well with many consumers.  The easier the brand is to access in memory, in more buying situations, for more consumers, then the higher the overall mental availability.

And this means that advertising to refresh and build mental availability requires  more than merely reminding consumers that the brand exists, but that’s another story.

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Social Media is not a viable advertising medium (yet)

This is my current advice on social media to consumer brand owners.  Use social media as research (into media), but you can’t justify it as part of your advertising budget.

Key to my position is that currently very little is known about the effectiveness of advertising using social media.  There are a few success stories, but success  stories always get a lot of attention (while the (many more) disappointing case studies are swept under the carpet) and many of the people promoting these have a vested interest.  There are plenty of social media marketing zealots, who say ridiculous things like “TV advertising is dead”.

Just because successful companies are doing it does not make social media marketing effective.  The Roman Army, which was very successful in its day, used to consult pecking chickens before deciding when to go into battle.  My guess is that the way the chickens pecked had little or nothing to do with their success!

Also it’s worth noting that successful companies like Apple have practically no FaceBook presence – I guess Apple don’t see it as an advertising medium.  Instead they use TV, print and outdoor.

Marketing science tells us that brands need to reach all category buyers over and over.  This is what makes media like TV so valuable, it is vast and fast – delivering a lot of reach quickly, at low cost per contact.  Also media like TV, radio and print offer us very reliable, trustworthy metrics.

When we carefully look at social media we see that it is highly fragmented (e.g. the typical tweet only reaches about a dozen people).  It’s impossible for a campaign to be guaranteed reach.  We just have to pray that we “go viral”.  Few brands have more than 1 million Facebook ‘fans’ globally.  The Sunday Mail, in Adelaide alone, can deliver that sort of audience!  Or any moderately rating show on Australian TV.

Also we know very little about how viewers consume advertisements within Social Media.  Do they even see them (when they are concentrating on talking to their friends) ?

So there is much research to be done – which we are doing in the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

I also encourage companies to do small experiments with social media, to learn something.  That’s why I say it should be part of the research budget, not the media budget.

If we were looking at Social Media purely as an option for our advertising budget then most firms would conclude it is not a viable option.  So it can only be justified from a business perspective if we are using it purely to learn about this new media – so that we know what it might be useful for our brand in the future (if at all).

Professor Byron Sharp (March 2011)

PS That means firms who are using social media need to have careful experimental designs in place.  The expenditure should be planned by the research department (not the marketing team) and preferably with academic advice because it is really easy to muck up an experiment and waste money learning nothing.

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Measuring Advertising Sales Effects

The purpose of advertising is largely to encourage consumers to buy your brand.  Controversy still reigns how this occurs, e.g. attitude shift vs salience, but it is uncontroversial that exposure to a brand’s advertising should increase the propensity (likelihood) to buy that brand – that’s what an advertiser hopes to achieve for their spend.

So this is the behavioural effect of advertising.  This is what undrerpins its sales effect.  So this is what should be measured in order to judge the advertising.

Yet this is not what is measured, hardly ever.

A little bit of this behavioural nudge shows up in a change in this week’s sales figures.  But only a tiny bit, because most of the consumers exposed to the advertising didn’t buy from the category this week.  What on earth do this week’s sales figures tell us about the total long-term affect of this bit of advertising ?  Not much, because we don’t know how much.

Also this week’s sales figures are a mis-mash of all sorts of other effects, from in-store promotions to competitor advertising.  Even if, in a pristine fantasy world, they were purely affected by your advertising alone what would they actually show about our advertising… is it measurement of the sales power of the ad? is it the quality of the media placement? is it a measure of the appropriateness of the spend (obviously the sales effect depends heavily on how many people the advertising reaches)?

Many marketers understand that sales figures are a messy, noisy indicator of advertising’s sales power.  Largely they are put off by the fact that sales figures show little or no reaction to their new advertising campaign.  So they employ proxy measures, like advertising awareness or perception shifts.  But these measures are noisy messy measures too.  Again, in a fantasy world where they were only affected by your advertising, it still isn’t clear if they are measuring the quality of the advertising, or the media placement, or whether the spend was appropriate.  And proxy measures are just that, they are not measures of the behavioural change in buying propensities.

I hope I’ve convinced you that marketers, and market researchers, have largely been barking up the wrong tree for decades.  The reason we know so little about the sales effects of advertising – and hence what is good advertising – is that we have been measuring the wrong effects.

Behaviours are what we need to measure.  But aggregate level sales receipts, like weekly/monthly sales figures, are a lousy measure of the sales power of our ads.  The solution is true single-source data capturing individual’s repeat-buying over time as well as their exposure to advertising over time.  And fortunately, single-source data is becoming increasingly available.

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Frequency and frequency – something to watch out for

The problem with the term “frequency”, in media scheduling of advertising exposures (OTS), is that it can refer to more than one thing.

The media agency can report “last year we achieved 98% reach of your target market with an average frequency of 24″.  Which sounds as if your advertising was reaching practically everybody, every fortnight – great.

But it means nothing like that.  In reality it probably means reaching some people (e.g. heavy TV viewers) many times, like more than 100 times.  While an awful lot of people received only one or two OTS (that’s opportunities to see) in the entire year.

Sounds scary.  But the real point I want to make is that even when we get a report on the typical frequency (e.g. “half of the target consumers received between 4 and 8 exposures”) this can mean around once every two months, or 4-8 in January following by 11 months of silence.  Actually the latter is more likely given many advertising campaigns.

So “frequency” can mean….

a) frequency in the sense of coverage over time, so that consumers don’t forget about us, and so when they make a category purchase the gap since the last time they saw one of our ads isn’t too long

or

b) frequency in the sense of repeatedly seeing our advertising several times close together so that they can understand and learn the advertisement.

The two sorts of “frequency” are very different from each other.

PS The (b) type of frequency is based on some old, discredited, ideas about learning and advertising.

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Companies should tell investors how they are investing in marketing

Investment bank Deutsche has released a report showing that most investors do not feel thay have a good idea how food & drink companies are spending their marketing budget.  This is not a surprise as many annual reports (financial statements) use inconsistent terms to report on marketing expenditure and often lump advertising in with market research costs, trade spending etc.

I absolutely agree that companies should explain more how they are making marketing investments.  They do not need to give away strategy, but they should itemise things more diligently – telling shareholders how much is being spent individually on
– consumer advertising
– trade support
– tracking research
– new product research
– marketing science/R&D

Why do I say this?  Because investors are trying to get a handle on what the future profits of the company might be.  They are only interested in this year’s sales and profits as an indicator of future returns. Marketing expenditure helps them work out if a company is stealing from future returns to make this year look good.

If marketing expenditures were better disclosed then senior management would be less pressured/tempted to cut or tinker with them.

Byron

www.MarketingScience.info

Emotional TV commericals don’t need so much attention

For advertising to work consumers have to notice it.  And the more processing they do the better, though for an awful lot of advertising very little processing is needed – it’s only advertising after all, the message is very simple, and this is particularly true for emotion oriented advertising – whereas persuasive, information oriented advertising suffers from the requirement to gain a degree of processing including rational  conscious processing.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research there is a characteristically interesting article by Robert Heath (with colleagues Agnes Nairn and Paul Bottomley).  It somewhat controversially shows that viewers pay slightly less, not more, ‘attention’ to emotion oriented (as opposed to rational persuasion oriented) TV commercials.  The authors speculate that perhaps emotion oriented ads work by inducing less rational thinking and hence stimulate fewer counter arguments – I think such an effect would be trivial, there is a much more simple plausible explanation of how emotion oriented ads work…read on.

What the study actually showed is that respondents (31 Uni students and staff) have slightly more eye “fixations per second” when watching rational more information rich TV commercials.  You see our eyes don’t tend to sit or move smoothly over stimulus, but rather pause (fixate) on things that we are processing – see here.  This laboratory experiment measured “fixations per second” using a lightweight eye-tracking camera worn on the head of each respondent while they watched a TV episode (Frasier) with ad breaks.  Put like this the results don’t sound too extraordinary, nor controversial.  Less information rich advertising needs less attention to process, and more information rich advertising is likely to get more attentive attention especially in such a laboratory.

As Heath et al discuss at the start of their paper, in the real world consumers ignore a good deal of advertising.  We summarised the literature some years ago and concluded that about one third of the time people pay active attention to TV commercials, one third of the time they pay some attention but are also paying attention to other things in the room (e.g. having conversations, reading, cuddling, surfing the web), and for the remaining third of the time they physically avoid the commercials through leaving the room or switching channels.  In Heath’s experiment respondents had very little ability, or motivation, to fully or partially avoid the commercials.  In the real world this is where much of the advantage of emotion oriented advertising – it’s more enjoyable and easier to watch, over and over.

But the other real advantage is that emotion-oriented advertising is simply easier to process, so it can work with very little conscious processing.  Emotional appeals are easier on us viewers because they don’t require slow, resource intensive rational concious thinking.  Quite simply such advertising doesn’t need so much attention.

PS requiring less, not more, processing is probably a mark of better more effective advertising.

REFERENCES

Heath, Nairn and Bottomley (2009) “How Effective is Creativity? Emotional content in TV advertising does not increase attention”, Journal of Advertising Research, Deember 2009, p.450-463.

Paech, S., E. Riebe, and B. Sharp. 2003. “What Do People Do In Advertisement Breaks?” In Proceedings of the Australian & NZ Marketing Academy Conference, Adelaide, p.155 – 162.

www.MarketingScience.info