My ex business partner Steve has a new post asking why anybody uses glossy branding ads, when direct marketing is so much more cost-effective, and builds brand at the same time.
Our mantra was “Branding Happens.” Getting and keeping customers is the way to achieve that.
I used to wonder the same thing (think: Dell), but I remember hearing a big honcho Pepsi ad manager speak at one of our events, and her saying "you don't build a big brand with direct marketing." And for something like Pepsi, she's absolutely right.
We were pushing high-ticket, carefully considered purchases. Same as Dell. Most purchases aren't like that.
I went to Jonah Lehrer's (How We Decide) book-tour lecture last night at Town Hall in Seattle. He mentioned the studies done mimicking the Pepsi challenge. Give a Pepsi lover a Coke and tell them it's a Pepsi, and they love it. And vice versa. The brand association overrides any true direct experience of the product.
The same is true even with cars and other things that you'd think would be rationally considered purchases. Sadly, they aren't. (Even in politics--look how many people vote for Republicans!)
The rational mind parses information and feeds it back to the emotional system, sort of asking "how do I feel about this?" The emotional system responds with feelings. Firebird good! Camaro bad! It's ultimately The Decider. (Where else can "I want" come from?)
Branding ads try to bypass the front-brain parsing, and aim for a straight conduit into the emotional system.
If you're selling sugar water, or perfume (same thing)--where there is no real rational parsing to do--or overpriced watches that do the same thing as a $20 Timex (so you need people to avoid the parsing and analysis), branding is all you got.
And if you're selling something where the number of choices and choice criteria is large, beyond people's ability or willingness to sort through rationally (not doing the up-front work for the emotional system), branding wins.
Think: Sarah Palin.
Sarah, can you give us your thoughts on the battle between Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney over Lincoln's (and eventually Congress's) suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War?