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Brands need to do more with less, how should creative agencies respond?

With the property market still in a rut, foreign investment not positive and the ailing Eurozone, South African brands continue to tighten their budgets and put the squeeze on their communications agencies to do more with less. Luckily for marketers, agencies are by nature creative problem solvers - bring us a challenge and we'll find a solution.
Desirée Gullan, Creative Director
Desirée Gullan, Creative Director
The interesting thing is that many small brands and start-ups seem to flourish in difficult financial times, as they're used to boxing smart and innovating and are much more nimble than the wealthier, more established brands. Gullan&Gullan have grown up into a medium-sized agency, but we still wear our small agency hat. We embrace the fact that budgets are never what they seem or what we hoped for and therefore live in a permanent state of innovating our clients' brands out of a recession.

The reality is--there are few South African brands that have massive budgets for R&D, above the line campaigns, big production, in-store displays and most brands require a different mind-set. The best part is that real creative innovators see these challenges as sources of strength and creativity. So after being asked countless times by our clients to box smart, do more with less, and achieve maximum results on shoestring budgets - especially in the last three years - here are some guidelines to make your marketing money work harder.

1. Understand your customers
When times are tough consumers are more mindful. Research published in Adage shows that people are spending 20% longer in a supermarket than this time last year. And it's not because they're buying more. So marketers need to provide substantiating reasons for consumers to validate their purchasing decisions. Think carefully about your messaging and the media you select.

2. Make your packaging work harder
Imagine your media budget was slashed by 100%. What now? You would have to resort to alternative media - such as earned media or "media" already at your disposal. A good place to start is your packaging. You can convey what you would normally on a television or radio commercial very creatively on your packaging. Obviously this can't replace the power of TV, but how many package-goods brands still see their package as a container rather than a medium? We suggest you start to think outside the box - and this means on the box.

3. Stop hiding
No person or brand ever gets ahead by hiding away. And unfortunately many businesses and brands tend to do this when money is tight - at least for a period of time. It figures then that the best thing a brand can do when their competitors have gone into financial hibernation is make a noise. Be bold, be present and be smart about how you do it. When fewer brands are "talking" more consumers are "listening". In difficult financial times, you can be noticed at a fraction of the cost and be rewarded for trying new mediums and new messages.

4. Offer more value
Obviously value is more important than ever, but how do you do this without further eroding your profit margins? You have to innovate on your brand's terms. So if you sell at a premium, be sure your messaging explains the added value your customers get for the price. Discount and sample offers are also especially welcome by consumers and interestingly we have seen that discount coupons are more effective than discount offers on in-store posters and above the line comms. Also, coupons drive trial and create awareness of other line extensions. And the best part is, they create the likelihood of full-revenue purchases in the future.

5. Get under their skin
The goal of marketing communications has always been to engage people with a brand message that has an enduring emotional impact. This is even more difficult when you have to box smart with less. The best place to start is to fully understand what emotions are relevant to your brand and amplify this emotion in your creative outputs. And be sure you are consistent across all 360 channels.

Remember, what you sacrifice now, you pay for later. Every thinking marketing professional knows that, but what you should also know is that your financial sacrifices can be replaced with smart creativity, media selection and stand-out innovation. So push your creative agency to do more with less.

2 Aug 2012 11:17


About the author

Desirée Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric™ methodology forms the basis of every communication service ensuring that brand equity is enhanced through congruent, consistent expression at every touch point from above- and below-the-line, online, social and all brand experiences. Visit www.gullanandgullan.com