“How Brands Grow” …By Using a DMP

A few weeks ago I was referred to a book called “How Brands Grow” which has been around for a while now and was recommended to me as an alternative view on the world of marketing and communications, which demonstrated, based on empirical study and research, that mass media and high reach marketing efforts were (amongst several other things) key drivers in a brands net sales growth over time. This mass-reach, low targeting view is (as highlighted serval times throughout the book) opposed to current conventional wisdom that niche targeting and tight audience segmentation (which advocates of data-driven strategies, CRM and programmatic media focus on) drive performance and campaign efficiency.

Sharp makes a series of rational arguments throughout the book, backed by empirical evidence, which ultimately culminate in the presentation of 7 rules or best practices to guide the world of marketing and advertising. Although many may believe on reading the book that Data Management Platforms, which fundamentally enable greater audience segmentation, differentiation and analysis, are juxtaposed to Sharp’s rules of marketing I present a case below for how data management solutions and DMPs can support several of Sharp’s recommendations, and as a result demonstrate how data management solutions can enrich and enhance brand growth.

I have evaluated 4 of the 7 rules which pertain to subjects that are better aligned with media and above the line efforts and therefore can involve the DMP to a much greater extent – the remaining three focus on the creation and consistent use of brand assets (colours, logos, brand names etc.) 

4 out of the 7 rules of marketing

Rule 1 – Reach All Buyers

Rule Summary:

All buyers are valuable to a brand, particularly light and non-buyers as these represent the greatest growth opportunity (it is demonstrated that it far easier to acquire new light buyers than to increase purchase frequency of already heavy buyers). Too many marketing initiatives focus on targeting existing heavy brand buyers and ignore the vast majority of light buyers as a result. 

Use of DMP:

(1) Use the DMP to capture and store data on users in order to identify none, light, medium and heavy buyers. Weight marketing campaigns appropriately in order to increase campaign reach against light and non-buyers and to reduce the exposure of heavy buyers (which are harder to influence as they are already consuming the brand at an above average rate).

(2) Use the DMP to create high scale audiences using predictive modelling solutions such as look-a-like models, in order to increase the potential reach of a campaign.

(3) Use the DMP to control the global frequency of media campaigns to ensure unique reach across devices and platforms is maximised, and media is not wasted by over exposing certain buyer types.

Rule 2 – Be Easy to Buy

Rule Summary:

Through a combination of mental availability (likelihood of a potential buyer being aware of, process and notice a brand in buying situation) and physical availability (the convenience of being physically available to a buyer through various distribution channels) a brand needs to ensure it is easily identifiable and readily available to potential purchasers.

Use of DMP:

(1) Use the DMP to improve mental availability by understanding the behavioural prompts and mental cues that a customer associates with a brand and focus on these when building memory structures through advertising. For instance, if we come to understand through the audience analysis provided by a DMP that the behavioural associations for a Travel brand include; swimming, eating out, car rental, spa trips etc. we can focus our advertising on developing and refreshing these cues alongside our brand.

(2) Use the DMP to improve physical availability by prioritising placement and creation of new distribution channels by understanding the regional skews potential brand buyers and their preferred purchase methods (online shopper, bricks and mortar, catalogue purchaser, Argos vs.Tesco etc.)

Rule 3 – Get Noticed

Rule Summary:

If nobody notices your advertising or your brand then they will not effectively process your brand and therefore will have a low propensity to buy your brand vs. a competitor once in a buying position. It is not enough to advertise; you must also get your advertising noticed. Getting noticed is down to a combination of many known and unknown forces but is largely subject to the memory structures, and an advertisements ability to disrupt and shift attention (consciously and/or subconsciously) through emotional hooks, creativity, relevance and entertainment.

 Use the DMP:

(1) Use the DMP to improve the brand messaging of your advertising (whilst maintaining core brand assets e.g. logo, colour, font, slogan, sound etc.) and make it more noticeable by tapping into the emotional connections and the real-time needs of potential buyers.  By referencing the key emotional motivations of a buyer you are able to tailor the message around that potential buyer, whilst showing an individual buyer a message which relates to their current need will improve the chances of your advertising being noticed.

For instance, if Disney showed an advertisement on how happy a child would be on a Disney holiday it would be much more likely to get noticed and processed if it were shown to a parent than if it were shown to a person with no children at all, because there would be a greater emotional pull for the parent who notices and responds to the need and emotions of children on a much more regular basis than a non-parent.

Rule 4 – Refresh & Build Memory Structures

Rule Summary:

Brands must build and consistently refresh memory structures in order to enhance saliency and mental availability. Brands must be distinctive in creating new memory structures using assets such as brand name, where it can be bought, colour, font, logo etc. and must continually reference these memory structures throughout future advertising campaigns.

Use the DMP:

(1) Use the DMP to understand which buyers and potential buyers you have exposed to brand messages, at what point in time, and how frequently, and to understand the brand assets that were used previously when advertising to this buyer. This is imperative to refreshing memory structures and reinforcing brand assets by building ongoing, long term optimal frequency and consistency of exposure.

For instance, if I know that I have exposed a light buyer to by brand once in the past 30 days, then it may be time to reinforce that message, ensuring the correct creative and brand assets are re-used to refresh and build consistency.

Sharp’s evaluation of the media ecosystem is certainly thought provoking and I recommend anyone who has not read “How Brands Grow” to pick up a copy. Although some may read the book and see it simply as a rallying cry back to a world of mass media, where TV, Print, Radio and OOH dominated the marketing world and digital was nowhere to be seen, I see it very differently. I see Sharp’s study into the fundamental dynamics and the science of marketing to be a stern warning to marketers, encouraging them to capitalise on their owned and operated data and the wealth of information they are able to gather through using tools such as the DMP, and to use these tools to enact the changes necessary in order to drive long-term brand growth.


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