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Is Your Ad Program Coasting Now?

Be prepared for a downhill ride.

Advertising & Brand AwarenessRecognition decays over time like the glow of phosphorous numerals on a watch dial. And the evidence shows that when you choose to coast, you will be coasting downhill. The negative force of fading memories must be counteracted through the twin towers of advertising effectiveness: frequency and continuity. This article focuses on continuity and illustrates research the proves its value in building brand awareness, which we know goes hand in hand with brand preference.





Continuity is key to long-term growth

Inertia.
Newton’s 1st Law of Motion states that barring forces a body at rest will stay at rest and body in motion will continue moving. As you will see, the “body” of positive results derived from advertising are impacted by Newton’s laws.

The main thing to note is that the law operates “barring forces”, and there are indeed forces in effect. The negative force is the weakness of human memory as illustrated in the Ebbinghause Curve of Forgetting (see Ebbinghause Throws a Curve). The positive forces used to counteract this are Frequency and Continuity—repetition over time; it’s the way we learn best.

Ad Impact Fades Over Time

The Ebbinghause Curve illustrates that only a quarter of us can remember a message one week after exposure. McGraw-Hill tested this with both their management and subscribers using a total 12 advertisements over a two-year period. In both cases, ad recall dropped more than 50% three weeks after initial exposure.

McGraw-Hill also analyzed a packaging company’s advertising in a single publication over a seven-year period. The company ran a total of 36.5 pages of advertising during the first three years. Then it stopped advertising. At the end of those first three years, 68% of the magazine’s readers said they were familiar with the company. Four years later – four years without advertising – only 44.9% recognized the company.

Recognition decays over time like the glow of phosphorous numerals on a watch dial. And the evidence shows that when you choose to coast, you will be coasting downhill. The negative force of fading memories must be counteracted through the twin towers of advertising effectiveness: frequency and continuity. This article focuses on continuity.

Continuity Builds Brand Awareness

A study conducted on behalf of Federal-Mogul Corporation, also showed that brand preference is directly related to advertising expenditures. The chart below illustrates the company’s experience over a six-year period. For four years, advertising as a percentage of sales was increased from 06% to 1.6%; during this time awareness rose from 10% to 46%. Sales increased by 52% with a corresponding increase in profit contribution. Advertising was then reduced to 1.2% of sales for the fifth year. Brand awareness dropped to 36% and sales also declined. During the sixth year, ad expenditures were increased to 1.6% and awareness rose again to 46%.

 Advertising & Brand Awareness

Continuity Builds Brand Preference

Brand Preference RatingIn another study of three competitive brands advertising in one publication over a six-year period showed that advertising continuity was the key to brand preference (see graphs at right). Brand A started in first place with a 25.9% rating, but after steadily reducing its advertising, it finished in third place with a 10.9% rating.

Brand B, which consistently advertised, started in second place with a 6.0% rating and finished in first place with a 21.9% rating. Brand C, which advertised consistently for three years, then virtually stopped advertising for a year and started again, began with a rating of 0% and finished in second place with a rating of 17.8%.


What About “Squandering” Ad Dollars During Recessions?

Research analysis of 600 industrial companies has shown that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during recession averaged significantly higher sales growth both during the recession and for the following three years than those which eliminated or decreased advertising.

Keeping Momentum

Because business products tend to have longer purchase-decision cycles than consumer products, it takes four to six months to see the results of an ad program. It also takes four to six months to see what will happen when the advertising level is reduced or advertising is stopped altogether. If effectiveness starts to decay when advertising is reduced, and you don’t see it happening for six months, then it takes another six months to restart re-establish previous levels of awareness, you’ve reduced advertising effectiveness and your sales opportunities for a full year. That’s a momentum killer!

Bottom line: establish a baseline of advertising expenditures as a percentage of sales that you DO NOT VIOLATE. Keep continuity, maintain momentum and watch brand awareness grow along with sales and market share.

 

 

Newsflash

"Great designers seldom make great advertising men, because they get overcome by the beauty of the picture — and forget that merchandise must be sold."

-James Randolph Adams