The long and the short of it – well, mainly the long of it

The answer to an efficient and effective brand lies in both long AND short-term marketing. But for some, the long-term has been neglected.

4th March 2022

4th March 2022


Estimated Reading Time 7 Minutes

James Bolton

James Bolton

James Bolton

Written by James Bolton,
Creative Copywriter

Alongside creative storytelling across a variety of channels and audiences, James helps define our client propositions by creating unique brand stories and verbal guidelines that get to the heart of their purpose and mission.

Welcome to 2022. Instant gratification can be found in an Instagram tap. Where immediate results are taken as growth-inducing facts. And where minimum effort boasts maximum impact. Of course, this quick fix culture is nothing new. We're now 10, 20, or even 30 years into the rapid indulgence cosmos.

And when it comes to marketing, there's a distinct overlap. The same apps that are draining brains and batteries also turn likes into leads and prospects into pounds. It's why digital marketing ad spend continues to rise every year and shows no signs of slowing. The simple matter is this: the short of it works. Ask anyone running ads; they'll testify to the simplicity and speed of successfully targeting demographics, followers and leads to pull them through the sales funnel.

But away from the misinformed brands where short-termism reigns supreme, there's a vital but increasingly neglected strategy, a method that follows the age-old proverb; slow and steady wins the race. Most marketers and brand managers are familiar with the short of it, but some have lost sight of the long of it. Make sure you're not one of them.

Think of the long of it, before it's too late

We often work with challenger brands that are at a tipping point. Despite many of these juvenile high flyers being in their infancy, they've already experienced super-fast growth. Since day one, they've been pushing the envelope and jettisoning anything antiquated or unadaptable. They've shaken up markets and struck like a lightning bolt in their categories. They've resonated with niche audiences and grown a small but loyal band of consumers.

Naturally, as the numbers tick over, more and more money is ploughed into that pre-proven, performance marketing formula. Usually, part of that success is down to an effective short-term marketing machine that's propped up the pounds via the algorithms of Google and Facebook. But believing that the same conditions and formula will prevail as the business scales is a mistake.

As Ernesto Schmitt from The Craftory, says: "Without awareness of the brand, what it stands for, and how it is differentiated from the incumbents, the bulk of consumers never consider, try or switch to the challenger.

"In other words, above-the-line brand marketing – slow, wide and wasteful as it might seem – is in fact the necessary enabler for challengers to scale."

All of a sudden, they feel the turbulence. Plans have derailed. Effectiveness has dried up. For brands to break out into the mainstream and beyond the committed few, it's time to look inside the engine. It's time to look at the long of it.

These things take time

At this point, it's worth noting that this isn't some theoretical, untested marketing theory. This is evidence-based thinking taken from Les Binet and Peter Field's comprehensive and in-depth research into thousands of companies. It's a simple way to get companies to understand and then execute their marketing in a better way.

Yet it's a battle that's been going on for decades. From the smoke-laden, boozy boardrooms of 60s Madison Avenue to the coffee-stained ping-pong tables of noughties Shoreditch, marketers, brand managers and directors have been batting their arguments back and forth. With budgets and brainpower at stake, it's a debate that has severe consequences for performance and revenue.

But don't let short-sighted wariness weigh you down. There's no escaping the fact that brand building is a longer, more uncertain game. But just like performance marketing, at the right time, it works; arguably even more so. Brand building is powerful, you just need a little time and trust, and your patience will be rewarded.

Evidence shows the businesses that balance traditional wide-awareness, above-the-line brand marketing, and below-the-line performance marketing deliver notably more growth than brands solely invested in the latter. Adopting this strategy will take you to the next level. It won't immediately translate to new customers, but it will pave the way to meaningful, sustainable growth that goes from strength to strength.

A motion for emotion

Where immediate activation is about converting hot leads into sales, brand building campaigns need a clear, emotional punch that steadily builds awareness and loyalty. It's about connecting those emotive, attention-grabbing dots with the hearts and minds of the mass market. This leads to an attachment for consumers that lasts well after discounts or benefits have gone.

But for many challengers and small to medium businesses, deploying this marketing is tricky. It requires unique skills and knowledge that most won't hold internally, simply because, up until this point, you've never been required to.

Any agency worth their salt will be able to add their expertise to make creative that's relevant as well as remarkable. They'll also be able to lend a guiding, impartial hand that makes sure any campaign is bold and single-minded enough to grab attention and play on the emotions of the market. One thing that will be needed from the business side is an acceptance that growth and profitability will be lower in the short term than simply placing all cash on performance marketing.

However, there's an interesting watch-out on the back of the pandemic. After countless ads tugging on heartstrings, does an oversaturation of this kind of advertising diminish emotional advertising effectiveness? It's a question that's yet to be answered. Time will tell, but the key takeaway is to make sure your campaign is meaningful, authentic and personal. Don't fall into the trap of adverts that recycle overused concepts like 'here for you' or 'by your side'. Stand for something, make a difference, be proud, and actually do what you say.

Getting budgets and tracking right

When looking at the swathes of marketing science out there, most agree on a 60/40 budget split favouring long-term brand building. Although this does vary slightly by industry, it's a good guide rail to keep you on track. Of course, if you're jumping from 0% to 60%, it's a giant leap of faith. Instead, incrementally increase your ratios year on year until you strike the perfect chord.

Regarding KPIs and measuring outcomes, think more around brand awareness and consideration which can be executed through a wealth of online survey providers such as Attest. You won't be able to measure ROI precisely, but that doesn't mean you still can't track your brand building activity and its impact.

Good things come to those who wait

With changes in consumer behaviour and markets still feeling the effects of a global pandemic, there's never been a more critical time to focus your brand strategy. A big part of that is deciding where and how to spend your money.

Despite continued uncertainty, one question remains front and centre: what has the most significant impact, and how can we drive results now and plant the seeds for the future?

The answer lies in both the long AND the short of it. We've made a point to raise awareness of its length here, but equally, don't forget below-the-line performance marketing. The digital marketing Disneyland has its place, as does the emotionally-charged brand building. It's all about balance. It's all about being patient, budgeting well and getting both types of campaigns right.

We'll leave the final words to world-renowned brand consultant and marketing expert, Mark Ritson: "The most important word in The Long and the Short of It is 'and'. You need both long-term brand building to set up growth, and short-term activation to convert it and channel it into money."

Whether you need support with awareness campaigns, brand building or product launches, get in touch to see how we can help.

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