What is good advertising—high sales or big awards?

What is the standard of success in marketing strategies: the number of awards an ad receives or the number of sales?

Every creative professional or any person with a leaning towards the enticing world of advertising would have come across this question- at least once. But what is good advertising really? What is the standard of success in marketing strategies – a feel-good ad with a brilliant CTA (like the Tanishq Rivaah advertisement) or a cinematically-appealing ad with a bigger purpose than just selling (like the Whirlpool Care Counts initiative)?

Let’s dissect these two ads.

The former is a national-level product-based ad smartly targeting two things that ensure high sales- weddings and diversity. Rivaah was launched at a time when “inclusivity” was something brands were striving towards. By including brides from the South and East, Tanishq had a formulaic approach coupled with sentiments during the wedding season and the success was reflected in their sales.

The Whirlpool ad, on the other hand, was a brand-based ad to build awareness about two things: the problem statement at hand (4,000 students dropout of school every day in the US) and Whirlpool’s role in solving it. Here, the sales weren’t organically affected but Whirlpool did take something out of this campaign:

Awards.

Lots of them. One of them being a Cannes Lions award for data.

Objectively speaking, both these ads achieved their core objective for the brand achieved their core objective for the brand: selling. Tanishq’s efforts are to bring forth a short-term result (directly buying) while Whirlpool’s selling efforts are to establish a more chronic image.

But a company’s gotta eat. And awards don’t convert to revenue. Whirlpool was one of the few lucky ones that was able to churn revenue out of its creative and philanthropic efforts. Their efforts amounted to a 22% lift in brand preference and 33% lift in brand consideration but even more importantly, increased its market share by 6.3% post the campaign.

Sadly, not all brands can say the same.

For example, just look at RadioShack’s 2014 Super Bowl ad.

A witty attempt that mocked their own architecture and design. It was widely popular and critics commended RadioShack’s courage to accept the reality, crack a few lame jokes and redesign themselves. See, the ad was creative (critics doubted whether a rebranding would help them) and it won Super Bowl Best Ad in 2014.

The most natural correlation would be that if an advertisement is much-loved, isn’t the brand preference going to be positively affected?

Well sure, the morning right after Super Bowl when RadioShack’s shares hit a 12% high, the effect was positive but RadioShack is evidence that assumptions are harmful to harbor. In 2015, Radioshack filed for bankruptcy after it reported losses consecutively for 11 quarters. This was only the first time, though. In 2017, it reported bankruptcy again but barely survived. Radioshack had 5,200 stores in 2014. Come March of 2017 and they had shrunk down to 1,500 stores. Now, they barely have 400 stores open.

Credits: Wikipedia

The death of Radioshack had peripheral factors as well like the sudden and sharp shift to online shopping that came right when RadioShack started to reinvent itself. But you know what one of the key features of a long-lasting brand is? Adaptability.

When RadioShack was already undertaking a huge redesigning project, was spending millions of dollars to make an award-winning ad the right choice? And if you are going to spend more than 4 million dollars making an ad, it better involve new products and not just an over-done joke.

See, this is the problem when brands chase awards and the norm.

They lose track of what their brand needs, they lose the vision for their brand.

RadioShack is definitely not the first company to go bankrupt after losing idea of what their brand needs.

Super Bowl is an event that millions of people tune into and advertisers for the longest time, believed that going big and standing out is the norm to increase brand awareness. But is the Super Bowl really worth it?

A 30-second ad space in Super Bowl costs around 4 million dollars. And the leads an advertising effort like this generates mostly caters to top-funnel marketing strategies i.e. only helps in brand awareness and not brand preference and purchase decisions (which is the bottom of the funnel). Therefore, if a brand is looking to attain short-term ROI from these ads, they are definitely not going to get it.

The bottom line is, there is nothing wrong with investing in Super Bowl ads. But if it is not the right thing to do, don’t do it. Ad effectiveness figures are barely different from ads during non-Super Bowl periods.

A few years ago, if somebody asked you: what is the ultimate goal of all marketing efforts? The answer would be, obviously, to drive sales. But in 2021, things have changed. Selling isn’t that linear anymore. Marketing’s goal may be to drive sales but the audience doesn’t want to be considered a passive consumer anymore. Their choices have become clearer, their dislikes and ideologies more diverse, and the number of alternatives they can switch to (if you don’t align with their beliefs and values) high. Marketing efforts like what Whirlpool does is necessary now to drive brand awareness and more importantly, to build its brand image. Brands have gone a step further now and are only focussing on the ‘long-term’ profitable relationships they can build with their consumers. They are not interested in parting with you after you begrudgingly remove cash from your wallet.

In some ways, some advertising may snag awards but to remain in people’s minds in this competitive ecosystem without forming bonds like these is impossible.

What brands need to ace is the balance between delivering feel-good content and strategically achieving return on investment (ROIs). You need to focus on selling the brand and the product. It is honestly just a plus if you manage to win a couple of awards along the way.

So, to answer the question we started the article with, good advertising is both: if done strategically.

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