Commentary

Endangered Brands Have More Power Than They Think

Fierce competition, disruption, and evolving consumer behaviors have many brands living under the threat of extinction. But these endangered brands have more power to influence their survival than they realize.

Despite intense fixation on analytics, many marketers are missing victories staring them right in the face — if only they were measuring for them. Alas, few brands track how their advertising may be helping to slow losses that would otherwise be more devastating.

Even when sales are plunging, advertising is often helping the brand hold onto vital consumer segments that would otherwise be lost to competitors. Delivering such powerful defensive impact is a major advertising victory. But without the data to see it, struggling advertisers stand even less chance of making sound marketing decisions. What often happens is that, based on this obliviousness, the campaigns that are working well get ditched.  

One endangered advertiser, an established beverage brand, saved itself with these impact insights. A legacy of strong brand image and household name recognition hadn’t insulated it from seismic industry changes. New competitors had won sizable market share by capitalizing on shifts in consumer preferences, while the established brand suffered significant losses. 

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The brand team knew they had more than just an immediate sales emergency on their hands. The long-term battle within consumer perceptions and loyalty was daunting. They were fighting for the very survival of their brand.

After deploying longitudinal research into who was seeing their ads, and how the ads resonated with those people, the brand team was alarmed: Only a small fraction of their target consumer audience had even seen their advertising. But within that segment, the advertising was offsetting declines in their reputation. Those same declines were extremely pronounced among the larger group who were not seeing the ads. 

The brand’s advertising was working after all. But sales figures and overall brand health measures told a different story. Those metrics can’t reveal defensive impact. 

The conventional (and superficial) wisdom says that if sales are strong, the ads are strong. But isolating ad performance from the overall performance of the brand tells a more nuanced — and often vastly different — story.

The widespread assumption is that it’s hard to answer “What would be happening without advertising?” without suspending advertising in some markets. In fact, it is possible to model these results using innovative research designs. But first someone needs to ask the right questions. 

What should scare marketers is that defensive impact is almost always undetectable by the measurement protocols most brands use. Without having visibility of insights flying under the radar of overall trends, many mistakenly believe their advertising is useless. Basing strategy on these beliefs only makes things worse.

Neither sales figures nor brand health measures tell the whole truth. The brands most vulnerable to the perils of this limited view are those already fighting for survival. But no brand can afford to operate on incomplete data and insights. Without the right measurement protocols, the only true answer to “Is your advertising working?” is “I don’t know.”

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