Brand owners focusing on functional messages

20 May 2010

NEW YORK: A majority of advertisers in the US are using functional rather than emotional messages to promote their products, a trend that has been encouraged by the economic downturn.

A survey of leading executives by the Association of National Advertisers, the industry body, found that 62% of participants were stressing the practical advantages of their brands at present.

In contrast, only 38% of contributors agreed that their focus was primarily directed towards forging emotional links with shoppers.

At a recent event for investors, Charlie Denson, brand president at Nike, said the sportswear giant was most interested in proving its authenticity and entering the "world" of athletes.

"The Nike brand is all about sport. It's about emotion. It's about passion. It's about energy and that energy is what brings to life the products and the ideas and the concepts," he said.

"It allows us to re-invent ourselves over and over, time and time again. It's a great piece of inspiration for us every day."

However, the number of respondents to the ANA's poll planning to place more emphasis on rational issues going forward was slightly greater than those due to make heightened use of emotional appeals.

The recession has been a key factor behind the rise to prominence of advertising which is based on matters such as low prices and discounts.

Domino's is one firm that is argued to have successfully deployed this kind of informative marketing to achieve concrete results.

The fast-food chain posted a double-digit uptick in same-store sales in the first quarter of 2010 having reformulated much of its menu at the end of 2009.

Its resulting "Oh Yes We Did" TV ad campaign offered a money-back guarantee to consumers who did not prefer its new pizzas, while its corresponding social media efforts drove buzz about the company.

"In a world that believes that advertising must be entertaining, Domino's is winning with a rational product message that is honest, informative and persuasive," Gary Stibel, ceo of the New England Consulting Group, said.

Elsewhere, the ANA found that 82% of marketers believed their corporate websites were a key tool for engaging consumers, falling to 64% for customer relationship management and 55% for television.

A further 78% of the panel cited positive word of mouth as showing that a meaningful relationship had been established, with 61% saying the same for favourable online conversations and feedback.

Intel, the microchip manufacturer, is currently attempting to utilise social media both to enhance its connection with members of “Generation Y” and to stimulate word of mouth.

"The 19-to-24 age bracket, needs to know who we are ... The more we get into social media, the more we see the power of this group," Deborah Conrad, Intel's cmo, said.

"We have to get people to care. If people don't care about what's inside their computers, then we're in a tough spot. We have to build a community and a conversation."

A further 78% of the ANA's sample suggested brands that share values with their target audience could be said to have built a real bond.

Kodak is now adding a yellow and green leaf logo to its packaging, marketing materials and advertising when its products have been certified by third parties to meet the highest environment standards.

"Customers want to know about how companies are being responsible stewards of the environment," said Charles Ruffing, director of health, safety, environment and sustainability at Kodak.

"Our new environmental branding logo will help us in speaking with our customers about how we can work together towards these mutual goals."

Data sourced from MediaPost, Forbes, Kodak; additional content by Warc staff