Brands require huge levels of energy. They need to be promoted, they need to be maintained, they need to be serviced … just to keep them going. And that can lead some to believe that that is all they need. Surely, if you invest enough energy in this brand, it will succeed.
You see this in those interesting exchanges which begin, “We’re going to spend this … and we want to achieve this”.
I would argue that the emphasis needs to be reversed, “To achieve this, we’re going to have to spend this …”.
There are some important distinctions in the order of these statements. The first emphasises the spend (energy) and ties it, hopefully, to an outcome. The second statement begins with the outcome and attributes a required level of energy to achieve it.
A lot of marketers put their hope in the first approach. Egged on by the planners, they spend up and then wait for the tide to come in. It’s a little like saying that you’ll put a certain motor in a car and aim for it to reach a certain speed. It may work. It may not.
The other approach is much more mechanical. Start with the outcome, and then determine the level of energy required to achieve it, both in ideas and spend. But it’s an approach that makes the creatives and the planners sweat because the emphasis is on actions and results rather than impressions. And it shifts the focus – from “what shall be spent and where?” to “why should that amount (or more) be spent?”
For the most part, the business model of communications agencies is not geared up to make that shift. Their ROI champions the power of ideas and the excitement those ideas generate. A great idea, the argument continues, will require energy to make it work. And when you agree, they’ve made their money. But – and it’s an important but – awareness or even excitement is a means to a return not a result in itself. And until you get the result, you haven’t made yours.
You might like to think about that next time the lights are off and the showreel is running.