Setting Budgets For 2022: Is Your Brand A Diaper -- Or Coke?

Budget and planning season is fully underway and marketers are wondering: where should they focus efforts for 2022? Should you advertise primarily through traditional or reach channels? Focus on brand building or highly addressable marketing? As has been the trend in recent years, everyone’s rushing to addressable advertising, enticed by the promise of spot-on targeting that gets the right message to the right person at the right time to motivate conversion.  Or course that is at a premium cost. 

To plan, answer first: is your brand’s product diaper or Coke? 


Is it a product used by a broad consumer base numbering fifty, one hundred million or more? Or is it primarily focused on a narrower group like new mothers? Assessing audience scope is critical before you launch into that Super Bowl spot or spend big on a finely-targeted Facebook campaign. Every ad has its place and understanding the place your product plays in the marketplace is critical to not over-reacting or under-reacting to the digital revolution. 



The transformation in the industry throughout the past decade has been underpinned by the idea that it’s valuable to pay higher (and ever-higher!) CPMs for finely-targeted ads to reach your marketplace. That assumption has led to the premiums charged for Facebook and Google ads. Of course, digital ads are by and large not as emotionally resonant as the finely-tuned craft of a 30- or 60-second TV spot, and consequently, per Zenith, 31% of all marketing dollars remain in linear TV while 44% now goes to online media. The latter number is rapidly rising. 

Before this evolution, diaper brands used to run lots of ads on TV. You don’t see many anymore and for good reason: with only about 4 million births per year, new diaper buyers form less than 2 percent of the country. That means that 98% of the investment in a broadscale communication channel like TV are wasted. For the same reason, you don’t see many diaper brands in the annual Super Bowl slot. Last year, a diaper company did run a Super Bowl ad; I would have advised against it. For a product adopted by a small number of consumers during a targeted section of their consumer journey, the premium needs to be on leveraging great data on who is pregnant, when they are going to give birth, and how you can reach them when they make this decision. Leveraging the tools of the new digital economy to power smarter results. 

On the other hand, if you are marketing Coke or any analogous widely consumed product – say cellular devices or soap, then you must ensure you aren’t being bamboozled into spending too much on super-expensive, highly-targeted performance ads that lack the brand-building power still available through traditional TV and broadcast channels. Sure, their reach is declining but for powerful brand storytelling that builds lasting awareness and loyalty across an audience of hundreds of millions of people, the TV ad remains a highly refined art form in the marketer’s toolbox that is well-suited to make the emotional connection with a consumer that can convert them for the long term. 

When I was managing a largescale campaign at Microsoft, I worked with an agency that said they were targeting my ads to heavy Christmas shoppers for $20/1000. I asked how much it would cost to “pray and spray” – that is, send the ads out across a broad spectrum with little targeting. They came back with $2/1000. But heavy holiday shoppers at the time amounted to just 20 percent of the country, so I was playing 10X for an audience that should have come in at 5X. Consequently, untargeted media performed far more cost-effectively. This is the basic math of targeted vs. broad reach media, and too many people limit their campaigns by paying for targeting that may not make economic sense. 

Of course, these guidelines are not absolute – marketing is always a mix of mediums and even broad-based products can be amplified on social media and with online advertising. And some products may fall in the middle of the spectrum or have sub-brands that need more targeting. (i.e. Diet Cherry Coke). The best campaigns today offer the right mix of coordinated messages across mediums. I worry, however, that in the rush to be modern marketers, experts in the new digital tools at our reach, the basic economies of the business can easily get overlooked and opportunities to maximize the effectiveness of our efforts are missed. 

So when you sit down to plan next year’s marketing this fall, you should start with this simple but illuminating question: “Are you diaper or Coke? It’s a more complex environment than ever for brands and if you don’t use precision in how you allocate marketing resources, you’ll wind up too stuck in the old world or you’ll spend too much in the new world for too little results.


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