Brand Advertising: Why do we need it?

Every marketing plan that is actioned is to fulfill a certain goal or purpose. Mostly, it is for the business to generate revenue or to make a profit, which is the case of most businesses, however ‘performance’ driven activities are not the only way to make a business successful.

To explain better, a ‘performance’ activity, is along the line of a tactical campaign, i.e. to generate more business through lead generation, or online purchases via e-commerce. But not all marketing activities can be purely performance based, while it is the primary objective, as a marketing professional, it is important to keep in mind the marketing funnel.

At the start, the first objective should always be about generating brand awareness. Of course there are certain brands who are quite fortunate that they have considerable awareness and aspiration attached to them, such as Apple & Samsung in the mobile phone industry, but not everyone is so lucky, and even if people are familiar with the brand, it is not guarantee that the brand will make it to the consideration set of the consumer, which is dependent on the consumer’s budget, convenience, and other internal values and preferences.

So what is the best way to work with this?

Firstly, it is important to keep promoting the brand as well as the offers. This is essential because a brand is a lot more than it’s offer, and more importantly by promoting the brand regularly, you keep it in the mind of the consumer, which is beneficial especially if they are thinking of, shopping around to purchase your business’ product. But even if they are not, regular brand awareness activities keeps overall marketing costs down in the long run, as less effort and spend is then required to generate brand awareness before a major offer or promotion period coming up.

Secondly, brand awareness activities are also dependent on the actual product. Specifically the life cycle of the product, purchase cycle or frequency of purchase as well as the overall product cost. Products which have a high purchase point, require the additional spend for brand awareness. This is because, due to the high investment required, consumers need to be convinced not only about the offer but also about the actual product and the brand. This usually takes the form of a rational or emotional connection to the brand, which is essential and part of the product they are purchasing. Consumers need to be convinced about the value of the product and of the brand. The cost for brand awareness in these cases is often justified by the high returns through sales.
Products which have a predictable purchase cycle, make it easier to pin-point times of high sales. This can be determined by evaluating sales history to predict key periods. In between these sales cycles, the time can be equally divided between promoting the brand, followed by the promotion of any offer leading up to the high sale periods. This ensures that the brand along with the offer are promoted in time. By sticking to these sales cycles, more efficient use of budgets can be made maximizing on key periods only. For products who have short life cycles or whose key sales periods cannot be identified, it may be necessary to promote the brand throughout the year in small controlled amounts. This keeps the brand in the mind of the consumer without big pushes in key periods.

Third, it is important to consider what will be the message, or what exactly is to be promoted in a ‘brand campaign’. A promotional message, will feature the offer, what’s included in the offer etc. while a brand message, in essence talks about the brand. This includes the brand values, what are its main selling points, or unique identifiers, and what are the brand touch-points. These messages are important, as it is this message that emotionally connects to the consumer and justifies the brand value. Without a brand message, the consumer only buys into the actual product which can impact on overall loyalty in the long run. Consumers who tend to only purchase based on offers, are more interested in short term deals and will most likely switch to another offer or deal, unlike those who are invested with the brand.

But finally, for any marketing activity to be successful it is essential to have a combination of brand as well as offers, however this is dependent on the budget and the level of management support in the company. In cases where there is a restricted budget and / or management requires you to do more performance based activities, all hope is not lost. There are other channels to be used for brand related promotion, two such being PR & social media. Both these channels are excellent for story telling, and brand stories, and also are good and engaging channels through which to connect to the consumer. While normally these should ideally be part of the marketing mix, the usage levels would change as part of your overall strategy.

So all in all, it is important to run brand as well as performance activities for a successful marketing campaign.

How to choose the ‘right’ digital agency

Choosing a suitable agency can be a highly daunting task. There are a multitude of qualified agencies all promising to be the best in their respective fields; how do you find these agencies? do you choose a full service agency or a more specialized one? I’ve put together a few tips from my experience of trying to find a good agency.

  1. Full – Service or Specialized?
    Firstly, it all depends on what’s the reason for getting an agency. Is it to handle all digital services or for a specific activity such as social media, search marketing etc. If it is for all digital services, then a full serviced agency would be more beneficial. This is not only because they have a wide variety of skills which could benefit the company, the more investment larger agencies receive, the better discounts and services they will provide. If you are looking for a specialized service then usually smaller boutique agencies are preferable. This is because they are more focused on a specific activity and can provide dedicated services, for a smaller budget.
  2. Local or International?
    If the target market is located within the UAE, then a local agency would be essential, but what if the market is global or in another country? Is it better to have one agency handle all markets or find a local agency within that market. Again this is dependent on the overall business strategy of the company. Most agencies find it more cost effective to go with one global multinational agency who have localized agencies in other countries, it makes it easier to deal with and they provide an integrated strategy, but if it is only one or two other markets then perhaps it is better to invest with a local agency there.
  3. Locating Agencies
    The next step would be putting together a list of agencies based on your requirements. Ideally the best place is to look for them is on Google (and being digital agencies I would expect them to have a strong presence online). Full serviced agencies can be found by looking for ‘digital agencies’ or ‘digital marketing agencies’. It is important to keep in mind that most traditional brand / creative / media buying agencies have also entered this space and offer complete digital services, so you can find agencies using those search terms as well. In the search results (SERPs), you can find out more about about each agency through their meta title, or their PPC results. In each of the ads, agencies specify if they specialize in a particular activity such as ‘SEO’ or they are complete ‘digital marketing’ agencies. I also prefer using third party sites such as: https://digitalagencynetwork.com/agencies/ or using organizations such as eConsultancy and their preferred lists which provide recommendations.
    It is important to consider the location of these agencies.
  4. Selecting & Shortlisting Agencies
    Once an agency list has been created, it is important to narrow them down. This is one of the more daunting tasks that need to be done. It is important to look for the following: Clients, Experience, Awards, Case Studies.
    Most agencies will have a client list on their site, but it is important to understand what work has been done for their clients. If they work on social, then check out the social pages and see how they are being managed, if they are handling search, review their SEO or check out their PPC ads to see how they are set up. Most agencies also have multiple case studies to support their claims. But it is not enough to say what work is being done but what are the results that have been achieved. Finally, it is also useful to look at what awards (if any) have been won by the agency and for any specific work.
  5. Deciding on the agency
    Once a shortlist has been put together the next stage would be to either send a Request for Proposal (RFP) or ask them to send across a proposal based on your needs. An RFP is a structured document with a list of requirements, however it is also possible to contact them and ask for a proposal. It is up to your discretion to provide a budget for the activity or not. In most cases businesses are not sure what the budget should be, so they ask the agency to advise which is quite normal, however it is important to consider how the agency costs. Is it a percentage of media spend or a flat fee, this would affect how much is taken by the agency and what’s left for the actual spend, so the final decision would be based on overall budget.

Is there anything else to consider, that I may have missed out?

Marketing: In-house vs Outsourcing? Finding the Balance

When it comes to marketing does it make sense to have in-house talent or would it be better to outsource to a specialized agency?

Most companies fall somewhere in the middle of this broad spectrum, where in-house marketing strategy is supported by agency execution, of course this also depends on the type of marketing activity which is being performed.

Most Brand marketing, is usually done in-house, where agencies are used to support specific tasks such as creative concepts and execution for a marketing campaign. Campaigns can be short or long term, with multiple agencies working on a similar project.

For Digital marketing, decisions have to be made on an activity level as different channels need varying levels of expertise. The decision is also dependent on the number of projects or brands that need to be worked on. Digital Marketing channels include:

  • Social Media
    This is the most common and ‘go to’ channel for digital needs, however there are a lot of factors to consider before deciding to outsource. Firstly social media takes a lot of time to manage, develop and engage. Many businesses choose to employ a dedicated executive to handle social media accounts especially if there are multiple channels, multiple brands, or the company is involved in a lot of events and live activations. Having an in-house resource means they are more familiar with the brand, the target market and language style to ensure a seamless experiences across other advertising channels. However outsourcing to an agency has its own merits. Agencies have more experience but care has to be taken they don’t do similar work with competitors, agencies also charge by the number of channels they need to manage, how often they post and the number of events they are expected to cover. Also social posting needs someone who can create a brand story, and most agencies are not well connected to the brand or to the target market to understand their needs and what they respond do. Of course this is not to say that agencies cannot do a good job, they can as long as there is a good understanding. So this decision needs to be made on a business level and looking at the cost / benefits of either option. If the business has the resource then social is an activity which should be kept in house and close to the brand.
  • Paid Media
    This activity refers to digital advertising across multiple channels such as social, Google Adwords, Display etc. Media buying is usually an agency led activity. There are a few businesses who do it in-house, but this is dependent on the the number of products or the overall size of the business. If it is a small company with one or two products it is relatively easy to manage this activity in house either by a marketing exec or direct by business owner; however if this is on a larger scale, then it is more profitable to outsource this to an agency. Most agencies work on operating margins, therefore while they conduct media buying they can work across multiple accounts to get better deals. Advertising optimization is also a time consuming and specialized activity which requires professionals with experience or managing campaigns can be an expensive affair. They are also more in tune with the different ad formats available and which would best for the media activity. But most agencies usually charge either a minimum spend or % of overall media spend which may work out better depending on the number of campaigns that are being run. Possibly one solution to this is to let agencies manage the media buying and optimizing while having in house expertise to manage the campaign strategy, channel selection and overall plan.
  • Organic Search
    A highly specialized and often technical activity, organic search is a long term investment and requires a high level of expertise and connections with media and bloggers for link building, and an understanding of website architecture to review technical SEO. Most businesses outsource this to agencies, who work on a retainer basis and conduct a set amount of optimization activity per month. However it is strongly recommended to have in-house SEO expertise who can set SEO strategy according to overall business strategy, cater to business objectives and review agency activity.

There is no easy decision when it comes to in-house vs. outsourcing of marketing activity, the best option is to review the below factors before making a decisions:

  1. Size of Business / Level of Activity
  2. Cost & Marketing Budgets
  3. Digital Expertise required

While there is no ‘one’ overall solution digital marketing requires a combination of in-house brand management and digital know how combined with the execution expertise, industry experience and media buying power of agencies. Usually a merger of experts from both sides of the business proves to be overall beneficial for the business; it’s all about finding the right balance.

So, how does it work in your company?