While marketers and agencies both advocate careful calibration when it comes to balancing brand and demand, the economy clearly has swung the brand/demand pendulum toward demand creation.
That is among the many insights revealed by the first-ever 2009 Brand/Demand Study (B/D09). Titled “Balancing Brand and Demand: Measures and Methodologies for an Economy in Transition,” the study was conducted by Stein Rogan + Partners, named 2009’s Top Agency of the Year by BtoB Magazine*, in partnership with Forbes and Ziff Davis Enterprise. B/D09 is the first national study of the approaches being utilized by the marketing community in achieving brand-centric and demand-centric marketing goals.
According to Tom Stein, President and Chief Creative Officer for Stein Rogan, “The fact that marketers advocate balancing brand- and demand-centric initiatives – yet are currently emphasizing demand – is not surprising. What is more surprising is the nearly universal acknowledgement that investing in brand
in today’s environment will enable strategic advantage as the economy improves.”
Key B/D09 findings indicate that:
• Now, more than ever, marketers and agencies (61% and 66% respectively) believe that a carefully calibrated combination of brand building and demand generation activity is essential. Further, both groups believe that maintaining a long-term strategy – rather than a short-term reactive strategy is the best course of action.
• As the market retrenches, some of the prevailing strategies that respondents are deploying to optimize marketing and business results include increased use of segmentation; a heightened focus on optimizing strategy; and increased use of perceived-efficient channels to drive brand and demand.
• The migration of brand measures from “soft” to “hard” metrics continues – with sales/revenue, customer satisfaction, market share and growth trumping preference, awareness and perceptual strength.
• When push comes to shove, marketers and agencies are channeling more investment to demand-centric activities. This in part being driven by greater C-suite support for investment in demand - though it should be noted that nearly 60% of marketers state that the c-suite strongly or very strongly
supports brand investment.
• Further to this point, marketers and agencies attach sustained importance to brand building. In fact, many respondents indicated that investing in brand in a down economy is opportunistic a there is less “noise” in their respective categories and, accordingly, the cost to build brand is reduced.
• Of note, a core set of marketing approaches is emerging that marketers/agencies feel is doing “double duty” in that they simultaneously build brand and drive demand. These approaches include: online advertising; social media; paid and organic search; trade show marketing; event marketing;
virtual marketing/online events; white paper syndication.
• Another finding of particular note is the mainstreaming of social media. In fact, agencies and marketers now consider social a “top five” brand-building approach.
“Marketers continue to adjust to the environment,” states Marianne Moore, Chief Strategy Officer at Stein Rogan. Importantly, they tell us that precision and optimization are essentials right now. By that, I mean they are endeavoring to optimize their strategy and messaging. Fuzzy or lazy positioning clearly doesn’t cut it when every dollar has to work doubly hard.
“They also are getting finer with their segmentation – aligning messaging and value propositions with more focused sub-sets of their overall markets. This is not only an efficiency driver, it is a results driver and differentiator,” Moore concludes.
Another important B/D09 takeaway, according to Tom Stein, is the evolution of the marketing mix. “Digital and social are in absolute ascendance,” he states. “One of the reasons why is the sense that these venues can build brand and drive demand simultaneously and efficiently.”
B/D09 was conducted among both business-to-business and consumer marketers, as well as advertising/marketing agencies, during a period of virtually unprecedented economic volatility. It provides a unique view into how marketers view the relative essentialness of brand- and demand-oriented initiatives in a challenging business environment.
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