The challenge of balancing brand and demand is a dilemma that marketers constantly struggle with today. However, there are specific steps marketers can take to better balance these two important aspects, writes Gary Finn, Executive Creative Director, Hero Digital.
Early in my career, I was exposed to two different quotes that have both served as the foundation of my creative approach ever since:
â€œWhat’s in it for me?â€
An oldie-but-goodie from the golden age of advertising, this question was popularized by copywriting stalwarts like John Caples and David Ogilvy. And it was drilled into my head by my creative directors. Mercilessly.
â€œWhat’s in it for meâ€ is the foundation that every direct response writer starts with, a customer-first creative philosophy that prioritizes benefits over features. Substance over style. And, often times, â€œdemandâ€ over â€œbrand.â€
As a marketing activity, demand generation is heavily results-drivenâ€”often with a mantra of â€œwhatever works best.â€ It’s usually disciplined and rigorous, with frequent testing and analysis. And if the numbers point in a direction that’s not aligned with the brand? Well, usually brand loses.
I didn’t hear the second quote until a few years later in my career. A late-20’s know-it-all, I was teamed up with a new design partner who didn’t appreciate my anything-for-a-sale attitude. And pushing back in yet another of our late-night idea sessions, he erupted:
â€œBranding isn’t optional!â€
And you know what? He was right (thanks, Will). Because every company has a brand. Some control their brand. Some let their customers control it for them. But for most, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, where branding is often a company-first philosophy that prioritizes their voice, their tone, and their mission, but integrates customer perceptions.
So like it or not, you have a brand and it impacts every one of your marketing activities.
The challenge, historically, is how to value that brand. At a macro level, it’s not so difficult. Apple’s brand value, for example, was estimated to be $182.8 billion in 2018Opens a new window â€”more than 23% of their current total market capitalization. But at the campaign level, brand value is much more difficult to measure. Sure, you can run an A/B test with and without your logo (I’ve done it), but what about your colors, your look, your voice, your tone, your values? It’s impossible to remove them all.
The demand gen trap
It’s widely accepted that human behavior is largely affected (if not driven) by our environmentOpens a new window . So when creating a demand generation campaign, many of us are tempted to ignore or minimize branding in pursuit of results at any cost. It’s naturalâ€”that’s where we’re held accountable. But this is a mistake, because as we have seen: a) brands have value; and b) brands exist in all our marketing whether we want them to or not. Which means, at best we’re squandering a valuable asset that can help us in the long run. At worst? We’re actually reducing the overall value of our brands over time.
But what if we could do both? What if we could get the results we needed from our demand generation campaigns, while still staying true to our brand values?
3 ways to strike the right balance
1. Remember that your brand is more than color and fonts.
Take a look at the two ads below. At a superficial level, they look completely different. But the values they expressâ€”their voice and aestheticâ€”are completely in sync. Stay true to your values in your demand generation efforts and you’ll go a long way toward maintaining a consistent brand.
2. Know your brand values.
Of course, expressing your company’s purpose through your marketing won’t work if you don’t know what your brand stands for. So dig deep into your company’s culture. Understand what your values are. And make sure they’re expressed visually and verbally in everything you do. That doesn’t always have to mean the same colors or the same fontâ€”sometimes you wear a suit, other times shorts. But underneath, you are always you. So is your brand.
3. Look for emotional alignment.
Once you understand your brand values, determine where they overlap with your customer’s values. This is the area where demand generation can thrive. It integrates the company-first orientation of branding with the customer-first orientation of demand generation to deliver campaigns that can serve both masters well. And it reduces the likelihood that your campaign will underperform because the â€œbrand teamâ€ made you do something you didn’t want to do.
Customer Experience Combines Brand and Demand
There can often be a tension between â€œbrandâ€ and â€œdemandâ€ at many companies. But in today’s customer experience-driven world, where buyers make decisions based on design, ethics, and valuesOpens a new window , it’s more important than ever for marketers to embrace brand and use it to drive campaign performance. By looking beyond your style guide, embracing your voice, and focusing on where you overlap with your customers, you can build successful demand generation campaigns that align with your brand values and generate results.