Over on his adliterate blog, Richard Huntington shares some great thoughts on the perceived dichotomy of short-term and long-term objectives.
It might be an idea to read the post first in order to get some context for what follows below.
In light of some recent discussions on this theme, it appears that the issue of sales vs. brand is actually getting more complex, even though we’re allocating more resource to addressing it.
In his post, Richard raises an important concern about ‘digital segregation':
“Online brand activity seems far more segregated into ‘like the brand’ and ‘buy from the brand’ than offline, into apps and experiences on the one hand and cheap and cheerful direct response advertising on the other. Fine if these are just tools to compliment other marketing activity, but not much of a future as a stand-alone industry.”
One of the things that attracts marketers to digital communications is the fact that they allow us to perform straightforward cause-and-effect analyses. It’s easy to prove whether specific activities drive sales, and that’s very useful. However, we seem to have become caught up in the reporting, and we’re increasingly focusing on the activities that are easiest to measure. We obsess about measurement, rather than on the outcomes the measurements should assess in the first place.
However, by not measuring the more complex, brand half of the equation, we risk returning to a commoditised approach. We’re placing greater value on linear returns, and as a consequence, each interaction is in danger of becoming a one-off transaction.
Perhaps this imbalance stems from a disproportionate emphasis on short-term results. Our focus on the present quarter means we’re losing sight of longer-term planning and the continued growth and success of the brand. There’s no denying that each quarter’s sales are critical, but to the same point, so are next quarter’s sales, and those 5 years from now.
But this is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees: we don’t need to choose one over the other.
Building brands and driving sales are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they should exist in symbiosis. They’re the yin and yang of brand success; we need to balance both in order to survive.
In that respect, any activity that prioritises one over the other is a sub-optimal compromise.
Some brands have already proven that we can achieve this balance. Ben & Jerry’s have shown that free sampling can be used to build a strong, durable brand at the same time as driving quarterly sales. Their success lies in the fact that everything they do engages people on an emotional level, rather than merely enticing them with free or cheaper product.
Of course, this strategic model requires more up-front thinking, consistency of purpose, and patience, but nothing worthwhile ever came without effort.
Critically, any brand can achieve that same balance.
I recognise that theory will not prove this point effectively, so I’d be more than happy to respond to any specific queries on how it can work for any (your) brand.
Many thanks to Richard for his inspiring post.