Why “Easier” is Better for Your Brand

April 19, 2010

Is “easier” better for your brand? Consider this excerpt from the article “Easy = True” by Drake Bennett

Imagine that your stockbroker…who’s always giving you stock tips–called and told you that he had come up with a new investment strategy. Price-to earnings ratios, debt levels, management, competition, what the company makes, and how well it makes it, all those considerations go out the window. 

The new strategy is this: Invest in companies with names that are very easy to pronounce. This would probably not strike you as a great idea. But, if recent research is to be believed, it might just be brilliant.”

If making it easier to pronounce the name of a company can influence stock market performance for the better, can making your marketing “easier” for consumers build your brand and Marketing ROI? 

Cognitive Fluency

A relatively new topic of research in the world of psychology these days is “cognitive fluency.” It’s the study of how the ease or difficulty in thinking about and understanding a topic influences our attitudes and preferences toward it. As a research topic, psychologists are learning that cognitive fluency affects our thinking in subtle, yet important ways. Many of which are very relevant for communicating with consumers. 

Apple Advertising — “Easier” in Action

Let’s take a real world example: the Apple iPhone. With the iPhone, Apple had a tough task: communicate the incredible multiplicity of apps so that consumers would immediately understand the ease and simplicity of accessing them to solve basic everyday problems.

iPhone TV Advertising - Simple & Effective

Now think of the Apple iPhone TV advertising. What I think of is simple, easy and wow. Showing the ease of using the iPhone, tapping cool new apps, and solving practical problems brings their value to life in a way that makes complicated and complex-well, easy. 

The Broader Advertising Landscape

In my experience, simple and easy to understand ads tend to be more effective. The impact of making something easy to understand has been show in research to influence consumer preference and choice. For example, Novemsky et al. demonstrated that even something as simple as fonts can make a difference; fonts which were easier to read doubled purchase intent versus more difficult to read fonts. 

Cognitive fluency suggests that making your Marketing easier to understand results in making it easier for consumers to do what you want them to do — consider and buy your brand. There are multiple angles you can take for making your brand easier. Or, just by making it your Marketing centerpiece as Staples has with their “Easy Button.” 

Staples Easy Button - Marketing & Cognitive Fluency

5 Areas to Make Your Marketing “Easy”

1.  Brand Equities – Every brand should have both strategic and executional equities.  Strategic equities include brand benefits and reasons to believe, while executional equities are the distinctive executional assets the brand wants to own (e.g. McDonald’s and the yellow arches; Bounty and the Quicker Picker Upper, etc). 

Once defined, brands should work to build strategic and executional equities into distinctive assets that distinguish the brand from competition through repetition and variation.  Repetition is important because it makes your brand more familiar and, as cognitive fluency learning shows, more familiar equals easier. 

McDonald's Yellow Arches: A Distinctive Brand Equity

2. Visual and Auditory Cues — Another smart way to build brand familiarity and make it easier for consumers to identify your brand is through visual and auditory cues. A great example of a visual cue is the Pantene “hair flip” that communicates “shiny hair,” which has been part of virtually every Pantene ad for the past decade. 

Auditory cues are also important, as I wrote in a previous blog post “Why Your Brand Needs an Acoustic Identity.” Can you imagine the Olympics without the Olympic theme music, or a United Airlines ad without “Rhapsody in Blue?” Of course, when done well, visual and auditory cues can also become executional equities. 

3.  Congruent Context – Ease of understanding is also related to context. The more congruent a brand’s ad with the program content it sits within, the easier it is to relate to the ad. A Slim-Fast ad in the The Biggest Loser is easier to understand and remember than a Slim-Fast ad in another TV program about a different topic, even when the demographic make-up of the audience is the same. Why? The Biggest Loser viewers are thinking about weight loss, and so, it’s easier for them to digest the Slim-Fast ad message. 

4.  Packaging – Even packaging can make consumers’ lives easier. Ease of finding a package in store is a key metric many CPG companies use to evaluate packaging impact. The easier it is for consumers to find your package, the more likely it is that they’ll actually consider and buy it. 

Packaging - Critical to the In-Store Experience

5.  Pricing – Many companies have moved to “value pricing” with low everyday prices and modest merchandising discounts. Making it easy for consumers to understand your true value includes pricing strategies that don’t distort the real value. 

Easier is Better

Of course, the list above is only a starting point–almost any part of your Marketing Mix and customer experience can be made easier. Most CMO’s and Marketers would agree that easier is better. Yet there’s an awful lot of Marketing that isn’t simple, transparent, or easy. 

Why? My guess is that Marketers, like anyone else, need to think that what they’re doing is challenging and difficult. And the truth of the matter is that it is–great Marketing is hard. And one of the reasons it’s hard is that so few Marketers focus on making it “easy.” 

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Linear TV vs. On-Line Video Advertising — Which is More Effective?

April 5, 2010

Did You Know That:

  • On-line video ad spending grew +41% in 2009 — even during a down advertising year?
  • 72% of all internet users in the U.S. viewed on-line video last year?
  • More U.S. consumers watch video on the web than watch recorded TV on DVR’s?

All of this adds up to something very interesting: On-Line Video advertising is growing like a weed. Which raises another question: how does On-Line Video advertising work versus Linear TV advertising? 

On-Line Video Ads -- How Do They Compare to Linear TV Ads ?

My colleague David Kaplan of Nielsen IAG (disclosure: I work for Nielsen) partnered with Beth Uyenco, Global Research Director from Microsoft, to compare the effectiveness of Linear TV advertising and On-Line Video advertising in a recent presentation to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). 

Research Approach — What Was Measured

Kaplan and Uyenco used Nielsen IAG’s U.S. on-line panel to measure TV and web video advertising data from November 2007 to May 2009, across 238 brands, 412 products, and 951 advertising executions.  For each ad, they measured the same effectiveness metrics: general recall, brand recall, message recall and likeability. Key measurement metrics were identical across the two mediums. 

On-Line Video Advertising -- Why Is It More Effective ?

Key Learnings — Linear TV vs. On-Line Video

1.  On-Line Video Outperformed Linear TV — Remember that this was an “apples-to-apples” comparison which compared the exact same creative execution across the two mediums. On-Line Video scored higher than Linear TV ads, on average, for: 

  • General Recall:        65% vs. 46%
  • Brand Recall:           50% vs. 28%
  • Message Recall:      39% vs. 21%
  • Likeability:               26% vs. 14%

2.  The On-Line Video Advantage was Largest Among 13-24 year olds — Among younger consumers, On-Line Video outperformed Linear TV advertising by greater than 2 to 1. On-Line Video’s advantage cut across all age groups, but was smallest among  50+ year olds. 

3.  Re-purposed TV Ads Outperformed Web Original and Flash Animation Ads — This was one of the most interesting learnings of the study. Even when controlling for prior TV ad exposure, a re-purposed TV ad shown on web video performed better than ads created specifically for the web. What does this say about Marketers understanding of digital creative ? 

4.  Linear TV + Web Video Ads are More Effective Than Linear TV Alone — Consumers exposed to ads in both mediums had higher general recall, brand recall, message recall and likeability than consumers exposed to TV alone. Once again, the data clearly shows the advantage of a cross-platform, integrated marketing approach. 

Why Is On-Line Video More Effective ?

There are a number of reasons which could explain On-Line Video ad superiority: 

  • Higher Program Engagement — As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, Why Your Brand Should Understand TV Program Engagement, research shows that the more engaged consumers are in a program, the more likely they are to remember the ads in the program. Nielsen IAG research shows that on-line video program engagement is +13% higher than the broadcast TV primetime norm. So, this higher engagement naturally drives higher ad recall.
  • Inability to Skip Advertising — If you’ve watched any On-Line Video, you know that you can’t easily skip the ads. I think the impact of DVR ad skipping on ads is over-rated, but the lack of DVR like ad skipping has to benefit On-Line Video ads.
  • Reduced Ad Clutter — On-Line Video has about 1/2 the ads per hour than regular network TV. Various research studies over the years have shown that there is a small, but significant, impact of clutter on advertising effectiveness.
  • Presence of Companion Ads — On-Line Video ads are more likely to have companion ads in the same program. The presence of companion ads increases ad effectiveness versus a single exposure alone. However, even when they controlled for a single ad exposure, On-Line Video still significantly outperformed Linear TV.

Now, before you think about running out and building your next campaign around On-Line Video, consider this: the average consumer spends only2% of the time viewing web video as they do TV. The practical implication of this is that most brands can’t deliver a high reach media plan with web video alone. 

But the facts remain: On-Line Video ads are more effective than Linear TV ads, especially among 13-24 year olds. As well, On-Line Video ads work synergistically with TV, and perhaps best of all, TV ads can be re-purposed on-line and actually score better than creative that’s been created specifically for the on-line medium. 

Can It Last ?

Some of the factors contributing to On-Line Video’s advantage, such as higher program engagement scores, are unlikely to change anytime soon. But others, like reduced ad clutter, will probably erode over time. Content providers are not making much money with their content on-line, and some are experimenting with more ads per hour. So, any advantage due to less clutter is likely to be short-lived. 

Nonetheless, with it’s higher performance versus Linear TV and spectacular growth rates, I think it’s only a matter of time On-Line Video ads become a signficant part of every smart CMO’s marketing mix. 

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The Ultimate Marketing Ecosystem: What Marketers Need To Know About the Super Bowl

November 23, 2009

Ever hear the saying that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to watch the ads? Well, this year the game will become even less of the focus as Marketers move beyond simply driving ad recall via their Super Bowl marketing activities, and more toward driving consumer conversations and brand interactions that “feed” off of their ads and brand integrations.

In a recent Nielsen Wire post, Pete Blackshaw, EVP Nielsen Digital Strategic Services, and I discussed how the Super Bowl is the ultimate marketing “ecosystem’ of paid media and earned media (Disclosure:  I work for The Nielsen Company).

The Super Bowl is getting real about real-time.

For Marketers, 2010 will mean not only a Super Bowl mega-media buy, but also a new focus on how to leverage that investment into earned media that provides a long tail of consumer driven buzz and brand equity building activities.

Super Bowl Paid Media: How Does It Really Work ?

What should marketers keep in mind when planning their spectacular media-buy?

  1. The entertainment halo matters – Over the last three years, Nielsen IAG research has found that Super Bowl spots achieved +31% higher break-through and +93% higher likability than the typical TV ad. Why? Partly because the Super Bowl has higher than average TV program engagement, but mostly because the ads really are part of the show.
  2. Timing is everything – Ad recall across the game shows that 1st and 2nd quarter spots yield more yardage than second half spots. Fourth quarter spots have the lowest recall and are about comparable to a “normal” TV buy. It’s clear: advertisers should play early and sit on the sidelines in the 2nd half. 
  3. Consumers get finicky – The viewer’s ability to associate the correct brand with the ad as well as reported likability levels wane over the course of the game: 1st quarters are best, 4th quarters are worst. Super Bowl refreshment fatigue, perhaps?
  4. …But as the game continues, good spirits abound – Surprisingly, in-program product placement scores are just the opposite–they grow over time. Branded entertainment recall and brand opinion are lowest pre-game, moderate during the game, and highest post-game.

The bottom line for Marketers? Focus on ads early, and branded integration efforts late. Perhaps most importantly, the Super Bowl is a “touchdown” for brands: the average ad’s purchase consideration increases +13% in the week after the game versus pre-game.

Earned Media: Great Advertising Finds Life in Other Places

How does the Super Bowl shine light on free media and consumer conversation? A Super Bowl  ad may trigger a web site visit, a Google search, a Tweet, fan-page sign ups, or DVR rewind. Or it could bleed over into the Twitter stream of a New York Times or Ad Age reporter. My Nielsen colleague Pete Blackshaw provides another take on maximizing paid and earned media in an Ad Age article “Earned Media May Be Efficient, But It’s Far From Free.”  This whole paid vs. earned issue raises two important questions:

  1. The Impact of Earned Media – Positive playback about Super Bowl ads can provide brands with an almost endless stream of conversation — a “digital trail” of echo-like activities. This free media needs to be considered when brands try to calculate their return on Super Bowl investment. The question is: how can brands best design their “paid” marketing efforts to drive this free digital trail ?
  2. Trail Measurement – Marketers can quantify earned media by volume, reach, tone, source, or even depth of brand advocacy. Much of this can be understood in real-time. Marketers need to understand not just how much, but also how effective it is. And, what effect does “earned” media have on future paid efforts? Is it possible that the digital trail after effects actually produce better ad performance in the future?

Paid Media & Earned Media: Put To The Test

So in the end, it’s not as simple as “buying” high-impact ads and branded integrations at the right time in the years largest media circus–the Super Bowl.

The broader ecosystems matter — and Marketers have to figure out how paid media drives earned, how earned media impacts future paid, and how both of them contribute to building consumer engagement and brand equity.

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The Future of Marketing & Me

September 24, 2009

This month, I started a new role with Nielsen IAG as Global EVP/GM for the Consumer Packaged Goods sector. IAG measures program and marketing engagement across the 3 screens (TV, Web, Mobile) in real time to help Marketers optimize their Marketing effectiveness and business impact. This role affords me the unique opportunity to sit at the forefront of the revolution that’s washing over the Marketing landscape, by working with CMO’s of major CPG companies to understand what Marketing really works and what doesn’t in TV, web, in-program product placement and cross-media in this new, complex and highly challenging world.

The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company

A sampling of the topics I’ll be focused on include:

  • Media Selection – How does selecting the right TV programs improve ad recall?
  • Ad Optimization – What is the optimal creative unit mix, copy length, wear-out, and rotation?
  • Program Environment– To what extent does the program environment drive ad effectiveness?
  • In Program Product Placement – How should Marketers evaluate product placement?
  • Cross Media Performance – What are the cross-media effects of ads?
  • Digital  & Social Media – How does advertising work in new media and in interaction with TV?
  • Real Time Impact – How do Marketers monitor ad performance in real time and adjust on the fly?

Blog Themes — Transformation & Impact

If you’re read any of my blog posts over the past few months, you’ve probably recognized at least two major themes:

  • The Transformed Marketing Landscape — We’re living through a transformational period in Marketing, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the rise of TV and mass marketing. This change is driven by the fragmentation of media, increasing digitization of marketing, rise of social media, increasing importance of word of mouth from our social networks, and measurement tool innovation, among others. In short, Marketing has become a real-time, highly complex, more measurable, and conversational endeavor.
  • The Need to Demonstrate Real Marketing Impact — Marketing should build brand image, increase customer satisfaction, and deliver improved top and bottom line business results. Marketers were already challenged to show real value for their spending before the changes outlined above; their ability to deliver results in this environment is even more challenging. This means that, more than ever before, they need partners who can bring sophisticated measurement and analytical tools to bear on their most pressing challenges and leadership thinking as to what this means for the Marketing function.

The crushing economic crisis of the past 18 months has, in my mind, only accelerated the need for the Marketing function to become more transparent and accountable for real business results. CEO’s, CFO’s and shareholders are demanding it, either directly or indirectly.

How My New Role Impacts This Blog

  1. The CMO Perspective — I’ve written this blog from the point of view of a CMO. This perspective will continue, and in fact, will be enhanced as I meet and work with CMO’s from major CPG companies around the world. These conversations will enable me to bring an insiders view of the major issues and challenges facing Marketing organizations in this changing Marketing landscape, and share these perspectives as appropriate.
  2. The Marketing Effectiveness Perspective — The new role provides a unique vantage point: the ability to look across CPG companies, brands and geographies to understand what works and what doesn’t. I want to have more and deeper insight into what Marketing really drives business results than anyone else in this space.  This will allow me to provide new perspective and insight, while still respecting client confidentiality.

Going Forward

I’ll continue to write about important Marketing topics — both ones which benefit from my Nielsen perspective and those which don’t. This blog won’t be an ad for Nielsen or a thinly disguised vendor white paper. But it will frequently draw on Nielsen data to make what I think are important points about Marketing. And while it should go without saying, it most certainly won’t ever compromise the confidentiality of any client which does business with Nielsen.

Thanks for your support and readership. Keep the comments coming. I look forward to continuing to write about Marketing topics that are at the forefront of the Marketing transformation that is enveloping us and most importantly, how Marketing can build brand equity, customer satisfaction and revenue and profit.

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