By Roy H. Williams
People say the word “branding” as though it’s a mysterious and complex proposition. But when you peel off all the layers of hype, it comes down to this - if Advertising is “getting your name out,” then Branding is simply “attaching something to your name.” A brand is simply the sum total of all the mental associations, good and bad, that are triggered by a name. What does your name stand for in the mind of the public? What are the associations triggered by “(fill in your name here)?”
Q: “Do you mean that it actually matters what I say in my ads?”
A: Yeah. It actually matters.
Q: “But I was led to believe that all I had to do was ‘reach the right people with my message.’”
A: And you believed it?
Demographic and psychographic targeting do have their place in strategic ad planning, but their importance has long been overrated. The painful crash of the NASDAQ in April, 2000, was due to the fact that America’s dotcoms were reporting revenues far below projected levels and their burn rate of investor cash was being accelerated as a result. Investors in the Internet got out faster than a fat kid in dodgeball.
Most Internet business plans called for enormous revenues to be generated through the sale of advertising. The Internet promised advertisers “ads precision-targeted to audience profiles,” and “a stronger advertising solution that will better enable you to reach the right user at the right time.” In USA TODAY’S Tech Report of November 5, 1999, Center for Media Education Executive Director Jeffrey Chester reported that “internet ad networks do essentially all of their data gathering surreptitiously through ‘cookies’ placed on users’ browsers. Marketing databases, thanks to the Internet, now contain more information about consumers’ purchasing habits than ever before.”
But a short 8 months later, on July 17, 2000, The Potomac Tech Journal’s Steve Robblee reported “growing evidence that Web advertisers are dissatisfied.... More than 9 in 10 Web-based businesses are not happy with the results of paid banner ads...” In response to this, Advertising.com promised that its new goal would be “to better target advertising messages to the right demographic groups.”
Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, the simple truth is that the advertiser’s message, itself, is far more important than the vehicle of its delivery. Successful Branding depends upon your ability to speak to the customer in the language of the customer about what matters to the customer. The goal of Branding is simply to be the name that the customer thinks of immediately whenever they, or anyone that they know, needs what you sell. Branding is about the message.
The analytical sales reps of the Internet preached that “psychographic targeting” was all that really mattered. They were tragically mistaken. Their ads failed miserably and the sales reps who promised miracles through “targeting” are now mostly unemployed.
You haven’t built your Branding campaign around “reaching the right people” and forgotten about the importance of associative ad copy, have you?