As we head into 2015, what excites and scares you most about building your brand and your business? Orlaith Blaney, chief executive, McCannBlue, offers her prognosis.
The big and consistent boardroom question in most FMCG companies around Ireland and the UK is: How do brands demonstrate a strong return on marketing investment? Shareholders want a financial return – and they want that return fast.
Our well-documented recession has taken its toll on brand investment. According to Core Media’s Outlook 2014 report, there has been a 40%+ drop in advertising spend since 2007. There is also pressure on retailers to deliver deep price cuts to compete with the discounters, Aldi and Lidl.
Supermarket own-brand products also continue to grow; at the expense of brands, in some cases. Consumers now believe that there often isn’t any downside to the quality of the food in the discounters – and in certain categories, they could well argue that the quality is even better.
Interesting, for me, is the level of advertising investment put into creating strong brand stories to persuade consumers to do their shopping in the discounters. Even the quality of the discounters’ advertising, in its broadest sense, across digital, TV and activations, combined with the level of media spend and investment, make the power of their story very compelling.
Face The Truth
So, if you are a brand owner working against this backdrop, what do you do? First, you must face the truth. Head-on. There is zero point in investing a cent in communications unless you have a strong brand story to tell.
How many ads have you seen in any medium that actually have nothing that interesting to say? How many ads wash over you and you struggle to really remember what the ad was actually for?
You must start with strong data and insight into how your brand is perceived and what the barriers are to actually selling it. We’ve seen some brands ignore the fact that packaging is poor, or taste tests that reveal that the product doesn’t compete well or the pricing is wrong. If the truth hurts, do something about it. Advertising cannot disguise a poor or weak brand story. Fix the problem. Address the barriers. Share and collaborate with your agency on the problem to be solved.
Get the right data. Don’t ignore the numbers. These days, there is usually no shortage of sales data and analytics on a brand’s performance. What is the data actually telling you and your internal teams? Do we know enough about the category, about competitive activity? Do we know what consumers think and feel about your brand? What story is the data telling you?
Talk informally to people who can give you deeper insight and information. Talk to the internal sales team, to retailers, to your customers, to build a whole and truthful picture.
Inspire Your Team
Right, you’ve faced the truth. You’ve interrogated the data. You are clear on your objectives. You are now ready to share your initial brief with media and creative agencies to get an effective solution.
Brief your agency, and if you have more than one agency looking after different types of comms (like PR, advertising and media, for example), brief them together. And make it interesting and inspirational.
We had a briefing for an egg brand once, on a farm, surrounded by chickens and eggs. We cooked omelettes and quiches. A client briefed us once on a beer brand in a local pub on a night out. A curry-sauce client briefed us with a hot chips and curry sauce tasting. We all play a part in inspiring everyone to create the very best ideas. Put in the effort, and you’ll get inspired results.
Time And Space
Make time. Get organised. In creativity, giving teams space and time really matters. I am amazed by the fact that Christmas comes every year on 25 December, and every year we get the panic brief. Don’t brief your agency teams on 5 December for a ‘wow’ idea for Christmas. Get organised.
Be patient. Be clear and honest in your feedback. If a strong creative idea isn’t cracked the first time, don’t despair. It happens. Be patient. Be honest about the feedback. Say no to average work. Push hard, but be clear and honest on why you are saying no. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that matters.
The creative business needs real and true collaboration. Build strong teams, and if you are the leader, behave like one. And make sure you say thank you to everyone involved. Celebrate success. Enjoy. Capture the evidence to win the board over and prove that great work works.
Orlaith Blaney is CEO of McCannBlue, Dublin. @mccannblue www.mccannblue.ie