When Bill Murray meets people who tell him they want to be rich and famous the actor always dispenses the same advice. “I tell them to try being rich first,” he told The Guardian in 2003, “and see if that doesn’t cover most of it.”
Murray’s point, of which he is more aware than most, is that fame brings its own challenges. And it’s a realisation that must also have struck home for the ‘godfathers of effectiveness’, Les Binet and Peter Field.
It would be unfair to portray these two ad men as anonymous in the 1990s and 2000s. If you were involved in advertising and marketing back then, both were well-respected experts. But over the last two years their work, which has been chugging along in one form or another for more than two decades, is suddenly garnering global attention and – even more impressively – being actively cited and used by hundreds of marketers.
I should declare an early interest. I was one of those people that read their work back in the ‘old days’ and am now one of their staunchest fans. It’s rare I get through a client meeting or a class without at least one quick side journey into their treasure trove of charts and models.
At the centre of their contribution, at least as I see it, are three distinct but connected observations. First, that there are the two undulating lines of growth representing short-term, performance marketing and longer-term, incremental brand building.
The fact that these two different paths to growth are not mutually exclusive and that they operate with very different dynamic implications is at the heart of the ‘long and short’ approach to marketing planning. Indeed, the most famous element of Binet and Field’s work is the general prescription of a 60:40 ratio of long- and short-term investments for maximum effectiveness.
“This big messy world of advertising, with all its varied and contradictory inputs, does not easily correlate with the equally untidy world of corporate performance and marketing effectiveness.”
The second observation is that marketing is simultaneously becoming less effective and more short-term in its focus. Look at the two undulating lines of the long and short from within a six-month window and shorter, performance-based marketing always looks like it delivers a much better return. It’s only when you take in a longer multi-year perspective that the fallacy of ignoring brand becomes apparent.
Finally, and with least exploration and application so far, is the implication of Binet and Field’s work for targeting. In recent years the impact of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute and its promotion of “sophisticated mass marketing” has broken one of our discipline’s most cherished principles – that you must segment and target in order to have the greatest marketing impact.
It’s becoming increasingly common to encounter senior marketers who happily admit to targeting “everyone in the category” or develop advanced marketing campaigns that openly attempt to reach every single consumer on the planet.
For many marketers that has been a tricky concept. The benefits of targeted marketing have been apparent for decades and yet the empirical power of Ehrenberg Bass is hard to resist. In that light, Binet and Field’s work provides a fascinating and attractive middle path.
Their work demonstrates that when you are adopting a long-term brand building path it pays to target the whole category and eschew any form of segmentation. But it also shows that when you are playing the shorter, performance game it makes more sense to target existing consumer segments to get the best return. Put more simply, you do not just want the long and the short of it, you also want some mass and some targeted marketing within that approach.
Read the full article on Marketing Week.