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Do entrenched brands need to advertise?

Published: 11 January 2012

What do you do when you’ve got something new to offer? You advertise, of course. But what about the brands that don’t have anything new up their sleeves? They have been around for ages, they’ve got a tried and tested offering that people are well aware of ... and still, they advertise. Some would call these entrenched brands, others say ‘nothing is entrenched’ (more on that later).

By Leigh Andrews

Take Coca-Cola for example. It’s an internationally recognised brand with a few competitors in its space – definitely a ‘big’ brand, yet it still advertises. Think about it. You probably know that ‘I’m loving it’ jingle as well as you know the names of your second cousins. At one of the first marketing-themed events I attended, MediaShop and Primedia Broadcasting’s media forum with Andy Rice in September 2009, Rice highlighted the fact that new and old media are now being integrated, with online ad campaigns quickly growing in popularity, and some being screened on TV after they have gone viral. One of his top ‘advertising heroes’ at the time? The Coca-Cola ‘Open Happiness’ ad campaign. He showed a clip from it, featuring a group of children who notice a zebra walking past. They follow the zebra and are led into a fantastic carnival world of semi-reality. Interestingly, Rice pointed out that there is not a single Coca-Cola logo or product mention in the ad, yet the audience still recognised that it was for the soft drink brand based on the Gnarls Barkley song associated with the brand alone. Rice stated that this is a key point to remember: “Coke got big because it’s good – it did not become good (well-known) because it is a big brand.”

When I asked what people think about entrenched brands advertising on Twitter, Angelo Coppola of Channel MPR replied: “Nothing's entrenched except crap ad campaigns. Some clients should invest in CSI campaigns to gain greater advantage.” This intrigued me, so I asked him for a longer response. Coppola obliged with the following: “So why do the larger corporates continue to advertise? I don’t know. I also don’t profess to be an expert in matters of advertising, but I do know a crap advertisement or campaign when I see, read, hear or [am] exposed to one. I maintain that there is no such thing as an entrenched brand and I’ve yet to be convinced that the practice of intensive repetition of an advertising message is more effective and leads to more sales of a particular product or service over an extended period.”

I definitely agree with that – there’s a limit to how many times you can be exposed to an ad campaign – even one you enjoy - before it starts to lose its flavour and gets downright annoying. Research as far back as the 1980s has investigated the effect of repetitive advertising. Gorn and Goldberg published their findings on the effect of repetitive TV advertising on children in the Journal of Consumer Research, stating that in a typical Saturday morning cartoon viewing session in 1977, kids could expect to see the exact same advert for McDonald’s five times. It’s one of the reasons I can’t watch the E! Channel for very long – I know the script for the channel’s in-house show promos out of my head and you just know you will see the same handful of promos in each and every ad break.

Moving on, Coppola adds: “I do wonder why advertising agencies don’t tell their clients to rather invest their money in other forms of marketing, instead of taking the money and producing crap. Clients should be looking to their agencies to advise them, and not simply to pump out putrid adverts that serve no purpose, except to pay the agency overheads. It’s a ‘lose lose’ situation for all. The creatives in the agency are unhappy, the client doesn’t see a return and the consumer is non-plussed, wondering why the advert they are exposed to, is so crap.” That’s the crux of it – radio is often still referred to as ‘TV’s ugly sister’, and certain brands don’t even consider print or online advertising. Then there are those companies that have a monopoly in the market and still advertise – they are likely selling their image or even a new aspect of the company, such as a new ‘green policy’. In my opinion, if it’s something new, I am all for making people aware of it – but if you’re simply aiming at building brand loyalty, why not try something new?

Coppola also asks why big brands continue to advertise their wares in traditional channels using traditional messages, answering his own question with: “The truth is, I don’t know. What I do know is that their money would, in many instances, be better spent doing some good in the community in which they operate/sell their goods or services. Why go to the massive expense of producing TV epics other than to satisfy the collective corporate ego? I would rather have a corporate do some community good than a crap advertisement that serves no purpose. The crap advert and the brand associated with it will stay with me for as long, if not longer, than a good advert, that is cleverly executed … If the agency is strategic it will combine the ‘big’ adverts with localised campaigns that will reinforce a message and drive sales. Or the agency will think big in different media channels. Big doesn’t have to mean big-budget TV.”

And there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on our blog.
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