Defining Differences: Marketing, Advertising, Branding (Part 2)

Last week, we ended in the middle of the budgeting discussion. Let’s continue with that subsection and then go on to conclude this two-part series.

Over the years, certain objectives have gravitated toward certain media. For instance, print generally allows for better targeting than television. Not surprisingly, we see sales efforts to highly targeted audiences going toward print more than TV. And TV can be very efficient at delivering a rich branding message. This does not mean, however, that print equates to sales objectives and that doing television is the equivalent of doing branding.

Often, sales budgets and the budgets of other objectives that require some accountability will gravitate toward the media where measurement is easiest. Television is very poor at this, so more of its inventory is bought by people seeking to conduct branding. Since the effectiveness of branding is so inherently difficult to measure anyway, people care less that the television medium doesn’t provide explicit results. Partly as a result of this lack of accountability, lots of money is spent on television to no known result.

Media sellers love this kind of money. It’s both large and ignorant. They get paid a lot to provide very few accountable measures.

Conversely, branding budgets tend to shy away from accountable media. It can be embarrassing when branding campaigns return results. In the online world, for instance, people (falsely) assume that the click-through rate of a banner ad is related to its effectiveness in branding. When results come back at the end of a campaign, a low click-through can embarrass the media buyer.

And getting true branding performance results (often with pre- and post-buy controlled poll studies) will often involve a great deal of effort to make sure that the measurement methods are in place and working properly. This type of hard-science, statistical work tends to fly in the face of the attitudes of branding department employees who’ve developed an entertainment-oriented culture that eschews slide rules in favor of black turtlenecks, triple espressos, and long, chatty lunches with broadcast media vendors.

My own opinion is that branding is becoming more and more measurable in some of the other media, particularly online. And what that measurement is showing us is that a lot of the branding we do isn’t very useful and that some of it is much more useful than we anticipated. I also think that advertisers who conduct branding campaigns are very afraid of being measured against these standards. For now, they tend to stick in the safe spending zones of television and print.

Media Vendors: Wrong Reaction

The online media vendors, of course, want a piece of that branding action. Some, such as MarketWatch.com, have even said that they’ll stop giving advertisers click-through rates in the hopes that they become more “branding” friendly.

The mantra of the online media sales side for the past year has been, “Ignore those click-throughs and performance-based metrics, and buy us based on our (relatively high) CPMs.” They’ve been calling this form of media deal a “branding” deal, perhaps because that’s all it would be good for.

I believe that thinking to be shortsighted. I think those online media vendors have a lot more to offer than mere untrackable media impressions. I think measuring the branding effectiveness — which many media vendors now offer in conjunction with several research companies — will provide a better value proposition to those companies conducting branding. We need more data, not less.

Unfortunately, many companies haven’t yet gotten past the confusion surrounding the term “branding” and don’t consider online advertising to be one of the most effective devices they could exploit to the purpose. This makes it tempting for media vendors to dumb down their online offerings to make them more like TV media packages, hoping to attract those TV budgets. But with cost per thousands (CPMs) much higher than those typically acquired from TV, online stands a much better chance of getting the branding budgets in the long run by taking the high road and providing real branding performance measurement.

Conclusion

If you’re buying media to send a message to a certain target, you’re advertising (which is a form of marketing). If the objective of that message is to make that target think something about the client’s products or name, you’re branding. If you think you’re branding because you deliberately buy media that has no measurement, then you’re just throwing money out the window.

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