Brand awareness over big bucks ad spend?

Another Super Bowl is in the books and many Americans now turn their sports radars towards college basketball and baseball spring training. And while companies that spent millions of dollars on thirty-second Super Bowl ads may have captured many eyes, at least one that opted out is also garnering attention.

Ketchup magnate Kraft Heinz made headlines by declining to run a traditional Super Bowl ad and instead made a new splash by giving its salaried employees the Monday after the big game off. Part of the campaign cited statistics that claim “… over 16 million people call in sick or just don’t show up to work [the Monday after the Super Bowl]. And for those that do, productivity plummets so far the country loses on average around $1 billion.” Kraft Heinz even pushed for official national recognition of the day after the Super Bowl as a national Holiday (Smunday) complete with an online petition.

Discussions of worker productivity aside, Kraft Heinz is obviously going for the (relatively) free benefits of market publicity and hype as opposed to running a funny/thoughtful/tear-jerker commercial during the big game. And while it’s too early to pin any numbers on their success, credit unions can certainly learn a lesson from this brand giant.

Sometimes, is it worth pushing overall brand awareness over a specific large-dollar ad spend?

Signs seem to point to yes. While CFOs and CEOs will always be more attracted to the quantitative return on investment (ROI) that most traditional advertising offers, those in the “marketing know” also realize the importance of heightened brand awareness. And while it’s certainly possible for the folks at Kraft Heinz to check out every single article written about their Super Bowl time off gimmick and calculate dollars per column they earned, most credit unions lack the resources to do this. But that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook when it comes to focusing on brand awareness.

The trick here is that credit unions are best served when they promote brand 24/7, 365 as opposed to specific products and services (regardless of the medium in which they advertise). Rather than aggressively promoting, say, a particular loan, checking account or rate, credit unions are better advised to promote their brand on a regular basis. Yes, this means doing away with the traditional twelve month marketing calendar (which can be a challenge, especially for veteran marketers). But this is a necessary transition that reflects the marketplace in which we now serve consumers.

Rather than the temporary hype around a traditional six-week or three month marketing campaign, consumers are now more likely to be attracted to and act upon the constantly reinforced message of credit union brand awareness. This is, in essence, evolving from a position of a weaker marketing calendar to a stronger element of brand engagement.

Brand engagement, as opposed to sporadic promotions, offers many benefits for both the credit union and its consumers. Brand engagement helps build top of mind awareness with consumers. It also leaves to enhance brand equity (the value of your brand is not tied to any particular promotion, season or person). Brand engagement also helps make your credit union less vulnerable to the inevitable boom-and-bust nature of a traditional marketing calendar. Rather than pumping time and money into a particular month or quarter, for example, promoting brand engagement keeps staff and consumers linked to your credit union the entire year.

While I didn’t notice any credit union commercials during the Super Bowl this year, it’s not hard to imagine the millions of dollars collectively they all spend on big-bucket ad campaigns. I also can’t help but imagine how much better off the same credit unions might be if they chose to highlight brand awareness/engagement over customary ad spend. Don’t get me wrong – there will always be a time and place for traditional advertising. The risk comes in credit unions that become too mired in it and fail to see the bigger (and more valuable) picture of brand engagement.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details