Timing Isn’t the Only Thing …
By Robert B. Yallen
The expression, “You fish where the fish are,” is
an appropriate strategy for agencies and advertisers to undertake when faced with a declining
and often hostile market.
However, before overreacting to declining sales, marketers need to take a step back and do some homework.
The first step marketers need to take is to evaluate the
current market conditions. If sales are down for all companies in your category, and other industries are suffering as
well, then put aside knee-jerk tendencies and develop a
One mistake many advertisers make after they’ve invested in a long-term re-branding campaign is that in the
early stages of launching, they hold steadily with the new
creative execution, even though market circumstances
may have changed. You cannot afford to be so vested in
the new direction that you ignore signs it may not be
working. Timing is everything. Make sure that you have the
right message for the right time, or your brand will sink
faster than the Titanic.
You must keep track of what your competitors are
doing from a creative, offer and media perspective, which
is helpful in positioning your brand against theirs. This intelligence should never drive your overall decisions, but
can help you fine-tune your execution in a tight market.
The No. 1 priority in hostile market conditions is
maintaining market share. While you can’t control market
conditions, there are three key areas that are under your
control: creative, media and operations.
The first creative decision is not to make too many
changes at one time. Ask yourself if the creative is working
as hard as it can? Cut any fluff out of the execution and get
back to the basics of selling. An immediate impact can be
made by making sure that your offer is as compelling as
possible and reviewing how you sell the offer.
Determine if the offer can be improved, then undertake
re-packaging how you market it. For
instance, if you don’t wrap a gift
nicely, no matter what is inside of
the box, you are already behind the
Be very cautious in testing new,
unproven creative concepts. It is
common for a marketer losing business to blame the
agency and/or media company. If you insist on blaming the
agency under these conditions, at least first test the new
creative with a well-planned matrix.
Make sure that new executions are at least delivering
the same results and that the message is resonating with
consumers. It’s about being flexible, setting reasonable
goals, and adjusting your expectations to the economy.
In a down market, another often-successful strategy is
to reintroduce older creative (sometimes requiring minor
modifications to the messaging) that has not been used for
a while, but was always a great producer.
In a declining market, the first key in media is that you
have to buy even smarter. By definition, a DRTV advertiser should not have any fat in its schedule — but all advertisers can optimize their efforts more effectively.
Reevaluate your advertising mix. Don’t speculate on
what’s working and what’s not when you begin to see
trends developing. Cut your losses early.
In some advertising categories, response rates to shorter
spot lengths can be just as effective as with longer versions. Consider increasing reach and frequency by relying
on shorter executions.
Weather the storm and cut as many administrative and
overhead expenses as you can. This is survival mode —
but don’t reduce your share of voice (SOV) and run so
thin operationally that you are not effectively running
your business. Be careful, because eventually the economy
will wake up and you must be positioned for growth, with
enough internal resources to handle the resurgence.
The time to consider re-branding is when the market
has corrected, and you see an upswing. Still, caution
should be exercised with a totally new strategy that is
untested —especially as you are rebounding. Running the
creative and having the consumer vote with his inbound
call — or by logging onto your Web site — is the only
valid test that you can run.
It’s all about balance. A company’s brand is very important, but not at the expense of the DR elements that contribute immediate ROI. Every dollar spent on DRTV is a
brand dollar. ■