Why aren’t we doing this? UK marketing strategist Peter Field explores long-term brand building

Announced at the Effies on Thursday, the Commercial Communications Council has launched a new book by Peter Field which urges marketers and business leaders to understand how overly sales-led advertising is negatively impacting their business in terms of long-term growth and profitability.

Why Aren’t We Doing This? – How long term brand building drives profitability was commissioned by the Comms Council and written by UK strategist Peter Field. It is a response to the trend identified by the Comms Council of the New Zealand advertising market moving towards short-term sales-led campaigns.

Comms Council chief executive Paul Head says the motivation for the book had been building for a couple of years, after industry experts started noticing marketing organisations were going too short-term in their brand focus.

“I thought it would be nice if there was a playbook that pulled in some of the other thinking that’s going on around the world and put it in a succinct book.’

The book is evidence-based, rather than an opinion piece, and calls on case studies from New Zealand and around the world. Case studies include Mainland, Lion NZ, EasyJet, Specsavers and Pak’n Save.

It was important to Head that the book took both a broad look at the industry globally while remaining relevant to the New Zealand audience – particularly C-Suite executives and Comms Council members.

“We think it’s really important to take a local view, and that’s why we’ve included local case studies – as far as we know nobody has done a book like this before and so it was important that it does actually represent the New Zealand market.”

Peter Field

Effectiveness case study analysis underpins much of Field’s work, which includes other marketing texts such as Marketing in the Era of Accountability, The Long & Short of It, and The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness.

Field drew on a number of sources for the book, particularly the UK Institute of Practitioners in Advertising database – which consists of confidential data submitted alongside entries for their effectiveness awards. With more than a thousand case studies in the database, including some from New Zealand, it enabled Field to examine how strategic and media choices influence the scale of effectiveness and examine the trends.

The data reveals that in the last decade, more campaigns have been aiming for short-term growth, Field says.

“It also reveals that there is a major price to be paid for this in terms of reduced long-term growth and profitability. The problem is global in nature and is widely reported by marketers.”

New Zealand is not immune to the global pressures driving short-termism, Field says, and because of the small market, the effects can be more acute here. Generally, large multinationals learn the dangers of short-termism first, and smaller brand owners in economies of New Zealand’s size can be slow to take action until irreparable harm has been done to their brands.

“Often the smartest marketers come from unexpected sectors – there are numerous examples of savvy brand building amongst discount retailers around the world, so Pak’n Save is in good company. By contrast, the financial services sector is perhaps the worst sector, it has most enthusiastically embraced short-termism and many of the value-destroying behaviours that go with it.”

Pak’n Save launched its long-running Stickman campaign in 2007, which was a deviation from price-centric advertising popular with supermarkets. Over a decade later, the Stickman remains one of New Zealand’s most recognisible brands.

The central learning in the book is that short and long-term effectiveness are more-or-less polar opposites: they require completely different strategic and targeting approaches. For optimum performance, separate strands of activity have to be developed for each and balance investment behind them. Field says the ratio should typically be 60 percent long-term brand building and 40 percent short-term sales activation.

Seven key principles for getting the maximum benefit from advertising investment are identified in the book. These are: focus on building mental availability for your brand; use advertising to create distinct assets for your brand; get emotional; get creative; be consistent; reach wide with advertising; and balance media.

“Perhaps the most important of these principles relate to creativity, emotional engagement and broad reach – sadly these are amongst the most widely abandoned principles in recent years, as businesses have clutched at quick-win digital strategies, targeting the ‘low hanging fruit’ in the market with promotional messages,” Field says.

Despite the changes that need to be made by brands to adjust to a more long-term strategy, Field says he has always been excited by the creativity and intelligence of New Zealand advertising.

“The country punches above its weight. These are two vital qualities for success in brand marketing. If we can convince New Zealand businesses to exploit these qualities instead of dead-end short-term thinking, then the future looks very bright.”

Why Aren’t We Doing This? – How long term brand building drives profitability is available in print, or in a downloadable PDF from the Comms Council.

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Caitlin Salter is a freelance writer who contributes to various publications at ICG Media.

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