How Brands Can Become Next E*Trade

Part of what made E*Trade an attractive acquisition for Morgan Stanley was the strength of its brand among investors. With the pandemic causing consumers to reconsider their loyalty, now is the time to run a brand awareness campaign aimed at locking in a new set of devoted customers.

When advertisers make the decision to invest in their brand, they typically set a goal for the campaign: to make people feel something, for example, or gain awareness of something new. Once that decision is made, the next big questions arise quickly — including how much to spend and how to measure results.  



Still, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Follow these steps to determine answers that are unique to your brand.

Clearly define what you are trying to achieve — and quantify itAsk yourself the most basic questions: Why are you embarking on a brand campaign? Are you looking to gain traction? Or has your favorability slipped as competition increases?

Once you identify those objectives, you need to define how much you are looking to move the needle. It may be a lot more expensive to move awareness levels 10 percentage points for an established, moderately high-awareness brand than for a young startup with virtually no awareness.  

Identify the way(s) your message will be communicated. Does your brand story require sight, sound and motion? Do you need a larger canvas to introduce your brand or to tell a story? Do you need to use more persuasion language to change perception? These questions will help focus on the right channel selection to tell the brand story.

Develop a strategy for competition. With one established client, our advertising budgets were four to six times lower than major competitors'. To make an impact, we had to have a concerted POV on where to run the campaign without getting overshadowed by our competition. We leaned into channels, content and partners that would allow us to make the biggest impact, instead of high-reach (and high-cost) areas where we had no frequency to sustain our presence.

Ensure key stakeholders understand the timeline.   Moving brand metrics takes time — and the bigger and more established the brand, the longer it takes. Senior management is often anxious to see ROI. Ensure they have bought into why you are running a brand campaign, and manage their expectations for what results they will see.

Determine a measurement and optimization strategy. With brand metrics taking months, quarters or years to move, you need shorter-term ways to measure campaign performance. Looking at front-end metrics can be a first indicator, but implementing brand lift studies and looking at attention paid to advertising are more analogous and comparable to larger, multiyear brand tracker studies.

Despite the current economic environment, research has proven that continuing to invest in your brand, especially during a recession, yields longer-term benefits over time (as the E*Trade acquisition proves). For many brands — but especially those in highly competitive markets, like financial services — competitive advertising spend is increasing, so it’s critical to do what it takes to stay top of mind. 

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