Wednesday, February 27

Marketing Myths: Frequency Is Not Familiarity

The Nielsen Global Survey recently released a study that suggests 60 percent of global consumers would prefer to buy new products from a familiar brand rather than a new one. According to organizations like Brafton News, this means marketers with established brands need content to cultivate continued loyalty while emerging businesses need trust and awareness through lead generation efforts.

But do they really?

Marketers thought they learned something valuable during the last Super Bowl, with many of them dazzled by the perfectly-timed Oreo advertisement insertion during the event blackout. The impact of that one advertisement primed the creative pumps of many marketers who went on to help turn the Academy Awards into a real-time marketing fiasco.

They weren't the only ones who learned that over insertion can be a bad thing. Michelle Obama drew unexpected but fair criticism that the White House and the Academy Awards jumped the shark by having her read the best picture winner a few nights ago. It illustrates how everything has an ad maximum and then it becomes ad nauseum. The First Family doesn't need to insert itself into everything.

And this is where the Brafton assessment and the original Nielsen assessment of the same survey are so different. Nielsen didn't suggest that the answer was more content and communication. The company suggested that companies need to uncover unmet consumer needs and clearly communicate those distinct product innovations with an optimal marketing strategy.

In other words, frequency really can be wasted and many brands did that at the Academy Awards when they attempted to hijack social network conversations and make the message about them instead of, well, the movies. It's like most of them forgot, all at once, that overloading communication again and again and again can lead to negative impressions as much as positive ones.

So why do they forget? Because most marketers are stuck on studies that prove the opposite. And they are partly right to believe those studies because they are true. Repetition has an impact. Attracting attention counts. Frequency is important. But let's forget that familiarity can also breed contempt.

Brand familiarity works. Identity familiarity does not. 

Part of the problem is that marketers, social media marketers specifically but public relations and traditional marketers included, are confusing identity insertion with brand relevance and content marketing with trending topic chatter.

What's the difference? One focuses all communication on the relationship between the brand and the consumer, reinforcing the qualities that count and the emotions that shore up loyalty. The other attempts to insert the company name or logo or product into every conversation.

To put the difference into another perspective — identity insertion is like the kid who always raised his hand in class because he knew every answer, the little brother or sister who was always chased from the room, the stalker who would cast long and unwelcome glances at the back of your neck until every stray hair stood up on end. They are the attention hogs, interruptive pests, and creepy people.

Brand driven organizations are those that develop such a strong relationship with the consumer that when the generic term or experience has some relevance in their lives — e.g., cola, soup, tissues — the consumer immediately thinks Coke, Campbell's, and Kleenex. Or, in other words, Kleenex doesn't need you to have the brand on your mind every minute of every day. They only need you to think about them when you sneeze or, bonus, anytime you feel the need to prepare for seasonal colds.

They don't achieve this kind of top-of-mind awareness by hijacking current events. They achieve it by manufacturing a quality product that is a little softer on your nose but strong enough to get the job done. And then, once they've met this need, they communicate the distinction with advertising as an introduction. That is how powerful branding works. Familiarity through relevance over frequency.
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