Friday, 17 September 2010

The Inexorable Rise of Brand Response in the ‘00s

The IPA Effectiveness Awards at 30

The Inexorable Rise of Brand Response in the ‘00s

By Neil Dawson

In the book Built to Last, Collins and Porras talk about how companies get caught in what they call ‘The Tyranny of the OR’. The belief that you cannot live with two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time, that you can have change or stability, you can be either conservative or bold, you can have low cost or high quality, but you can never have both. They found that successful, visionary companies all operate in what they call ‘The Genius of the AND’, driven by the “ferocious insistence” that they can and must have both at once.

Marketers and their agencies have long been caught in their own ‘Tyranny of the OR’ as they have wrestled with how to achieve the right balance of brand-building and response-driving, tactical activity within campaigns. Terms such as ‘Theme and scheme’ or ‘Strategic promotions’ have been variously used to describe this ongoing challenge.

Brand Response is the marketing communications industry’s Genius of the And. It sounds too good to be true. It asks us to live with two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time. It can be simply defined as a strategic and executional campaign approach where brand-building drives response and this response in turns build the brand in a virtuous circle of effectiveness.

Analysis of the IPA Databank indicates there has been a change in the nature of the campaigns on show over time. Brand Response emerged as a significant force in the ‘00s and the trend looks set to continue. This has had significant implications for strategy, creative, media and evaluative approach. While this may risk over-simplification, marketing communications seems to have moved through three distinct phases in the lifetime of the Awards.

1.Brand or Response

Marketers make a choice between two discrete activities. Brand-building and other longer term activities are separate from short-term sales or response-driving activities. They are generally delivered by different campaigns through different channels. Typically TV used for ‘brand’ and direct marketing used for response. The majority of the IPA cases from the 1980s reflect this thinking.

2. Brand and Response

The two elements are treated as distinct but complementary activities within a campaign assisted by some executional links. The Grand Prix-winning Tesco case of 2000 used Every Little Helps and a consistent tone of voice across different campaigns for brand and tactical work.

3. Brand Response

A seamless blend of both types of activity is delivered through a single campaign. The purpose of all activity is to drive response (both short and longer term) while building the brand. Building brands and driving sales are no longer mutually exclusive activities, they are now symbiotic. Critically the two elements create a powerful virtuous circle where brand helps build response, and the response itself helps build the brand. (Specific examples of how this works are given below).

Support for this thesis of the rise of Brand Response comes from analysis of the types of campaign by decade using the new IDOL tool (IPA Databank online).

Brand Response is not exclusively a ‘00s phenomenon. There were significant portents in the ‘90s – the definitive case being Direct Line and the famous red telephone. At the time it was regarded as being a sector-specific success rather than as a broader breakthrough in approaches to marketing communications.

The growth of Brand Response has been fuelled by multiple factors:

• Since the mid ‘90s the growth of the Internet has disrupted the business models of existing sectors and created new business sectors such as aggregators. The ability to measure and model consumer ‘response’ has increased dramatically and continues apace. (The commercial value of this ‘response’ remains a matter of ongoing debate).

• Most businesses now operate in a relentlessly short-term environment. Daily, weekly and monthly targets are the norm, the quarterly report has for many become a long-term perspective.

• The downward pressure on marketing budgets of the last decade means that marketers simply cannot afford to divide the Brand and Response tasks in the way they used to.

• Consumers have become more ‘responsive’. It is easier than ever for them to engage with relevant marketing campaigns. They are more willing than ever to respond to the right offer. Social networks have created new opportunities for response in the form of participation and comment without invitation from brands.

• Over the last decade, the marketing communications industry has consistently promoted the value and virtues of joined-up or integrated thinking and execution. Setting aside well-documented interdisciplinary turf wars, this has created an environment where Brand Response has been likely to flourish.

Below are three of the best exemplars of Brand Response. Interested readers are invited to download the full papers from at The accompanying commentary is not intended as a summary of the case but rather to show how it demonstrates a Brand Response approach. Data shown are entirely subjective highlights.

Each case approaches the task from both a strategic and executional perspective.
And in each there is a powerful demonstration of the virtuous circle where brand aids response and the response itself is part of the brand-building relationship.

O2 – Brand Response through Total Integration

This is the story of a corporate transformation from ‘troubled’ Cellnet to thriving O2. The new brand was launched into a mature and ferociously competitive market. They faced the significant challenge of building a brand while gaining short-term sales as quickly as possible. Over 80% of investment was sales-driving. The paper describes how O2 adopted a brand-centric approach to all activity.

Integration was delivered at two levels:

1) Visual – to deliver cut-through, which helped drive awareness and led to efficiencies.
2) Strategic – to deliver product and tactical propositions such as Pay and Go, Bolt-Ons and Home which successfully drove sales and longer term consideration.

Econometric modelling shows a short-term payback of 6.3:1 and an ultimate payback of 62:1.

What is so impressive about the case is the speed at which the results were achieved. Significant savings were delivered by the rapidity with which O2 established itself in the market. The Accenture chart shows the length of time each mobile brand took to achieve spontaneous awareness and at what cost. No other brand achieved their goals as quickly or as cost-effectively during this period. In just two years O2 became the most salient brand in the market.

Importantly strategic and tactical propositions created a brand-building experience – Pay and Go, Home and Bolt-Ons completed the virtuous circle of brand response by being distinctive and relevant to the consumer.

Sainsbury’s – Brand Response as an Organising Thought

The Sainsbury’s case is a significant example of a campaign evolution into a Brand Response model. Previous successful campaigns had featured Jamie Oliver and the famous recipe cards. The new strategy was founded on a clear definition of the business problem – a target of £2.5bn extra sales was translated into £1.14 extra per shopping trip. Try Something New Today was created to interrupt ingrained shopper behaviour and drive incremental purchase. The idea has since guided all communications, store design, merchandising, product innovation and company culture. It works with Jamie Oliver in TV ads and on the recession-busting Feed Your Family for a Fiver initiative instore.

Significantly the idea of Try Something New Today was not simply about building brand while driving purchase, the experience of creating and eating something new is a brand-building experience from Sainsbury’s in its own right.

The total effects of this campaign are £1.9bn incremental revenue over two years. Of particular note is the modelling proof, which highlights the value of the Try Something New Today idea at £550m in increased revenue. In other words Try Something New Today led to behaviour change unrelated to media spend which had a huge impact on sales.

118 118 – Brand Response as Cult Phenomenon

This is a great example of highly effective Brand Response activity in a sector land-grab. The deregulation of directory enquiries does not seem like an inspirational subject, yet the cult- like phenomenon of the runners propelled an unknown brand to market leadership and public affection in a short time. The task of driving immediate calls and building a distinctive and motivating brand could not be divided. As well as creating a famous brand, response was key to building the brand via behaviour and ingraining a new directory enquiries habit.

A bold strategy included spending £2m of the marketing budget on getting the so-called ‘golden double’ of 118 118 and beginning to advertise several months ahead of switch-off. This delivered 17 million calls at a time when there was no reason to call 118 118 other than the communications campaign.

The campaign idea was amplified by innovative media approaches which made the runners and their ‘Got Your Number’ catchphrase become a part of popular culture – appearing on Question of Sport, even celebrating the retirement of the elderly 192. The runners became the poster-boys for all journalistic coverage of the deregulation issue bringing high engagement to this dull subject. 118 118 thus owned a new category.

Post switch-off 118 118 dominated the market and charged a significant premium vs. competitors. Market share rose to 44% compared to long-established BT’s 34%.

So we have seen that Brand Response is a significant theme of the IPA Effectiveness Awards in the ‘00s. Two historically separate and apparently contradictory elements have been united in some of the most effective campaigns of the last decade.

Brand Response has generated new learning about strategic and executional approaches to business problems. By definition it is highly relevant to retailers and other service brands where the consumer experience is critical in fuelling brand perceptions. However sectors such as FMCG are not immune – the recent Walkers ‘Do Us A Flavour’ campaign seems to be inspired by Brand Response principles.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of a first rate mind was the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Successful marketing communications in the ‘00s passed this test as it increasingly embraced Brand Response. And there is no sign of this trend abating.

Please get in contact with us to hear more about Brand Response.

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