The Rise of Brand Response or "Why take two bottles into the shower"

15 Sep 2010  |  Greg Grimmer 
Greg Grimmer

Greg Grimmer, partner, Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer, on why we should all take note of Brand Response...

This week I have had the honour of speaking at Nokia World - a collection of the finest brains in the mobile business - and the privilege of attending Conde Nast Digital's take on the multi platform world.  Two high profile well-attended events, both fronted by the most senior executives in their respective companies.

Within the presentations though were two very conflicting messages. The theme of the mobile conference was that mobile must get ROI . It must deliver direct response to clients to change marketers perception of the channel (and crucially their spend behaviour).  Over at Vogue House, they have invested for the long term by creating beautiful digital vehicles for their brands (mainly on beautiful Apple based products) and now have a long list of brands using these platforms for branding campaigns.

So here we are again - Brand or Response?

Many words have been written on this subject, normally by media proponents of one of these specialism's over the years, and usually with the conclusion that that they are totally separate disciplines. Instead of trying to add to these I have instead chosen to plagiarise my partner Neil Dawson's work on the subject. Being a researcher by training and an account planner by trade rather than write subjectively about the subject, Neil has done some thorough research using the IPA effectiveness award winners over the last 30 years to work out if Brand Response is a passing trend or something more important.

Brand Response 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 builds the brand in a virtuous circle of effectiveness. Neil's 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 IPA Awards.

1.Brand or Response 80's

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 is used for 'brand' and direct marketing. The majority of the IPA cases from the 1980s reflect this thinking.

2.Brand and Response 90's

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 00's

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.

Support for this thesis of the rise of Brand Response comes from analysis of the types of campaign by decade.

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.

Whether it is Sainsbury's 'Try Something New', 02 bolt-ons, the 118 118 runners or the Russian Meerkat, some of the most iconic and effective campaigns over the last decade have been undoubtedly Brand Response.

It a significant theme of the IPA Effectiveness Awards in the '00s. 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.

There is no sign of this trend abating, we should all take note...

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