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Relying on digital alone to build your brand is like having endless one night stands

By Kelly Sargent.

The hype around social and digital media marketing can be so fluffy; few are looking into what the short-term thinking behind these activities are tangibly doing for brands.

But we see what’s happening, and we are not alone.

Strategy guru Simon White wrote an article in AdAge claiming that businesses are trading long-term brand building for short term ROI, and this striving for ‘efficiency’ is killing brands although White says, “This isn’t an attack on digital, but on the short term thinking it has created.”

The article’s sentiments happen to be a part of our full service philosophy and reason for being because too often we see businesses and brands applying short term thinking across digital tools without a comprehensive, multichannel, long-term campaign plan. 

Cue brand (and hence business) suicide; or in the eloquent words of our awarded CD, Tony, “It’s just stupid.”

It is stupid to implement short term digital thinking without long-term multichannel, comprehensive branding and campaign management.

Executing a three month social media contract without considering traditional avenues, your website, digital advertising or holistic brand management (and ultimately how to reach your ideal client across all touch points), is stupid.

And it will kill your business. Slowly.

An inconsistent branding death will squeeze your loyal customers out and you’ll fail to get new ones.

New customers cannot relate because customer loyalty is built over time by being consistent with the right messaging across multiple channels. Brand building is a slow burn. Loyalty happens over time when people are able and willing to align themselves and their values, with your brand.

Digital messaging and social media without a strategy is dismissive; and it’s the wrong medium to build or sustain brands. It’s only one part of a bigger whole.

Yet we see businesses relying on digital alone all the time. They are seducing digital data and having endless one night stands, only to be left lonely and broken with nothing to show for it.

Our hearts break for them; swipes and posts are not how you build relationships, my dear. Those with healthy customer loyalty know it takes much more than simply ‘being there’.

Now more than ever, those in the know are calling out the short-term mentality that’s plaguing brands across the digital and social space.

Recently Marketing guru Peter Field spoke about this phenomena at the The Communications Council  and in his book, ‘The long and Short of it’, saying digital agencies are increasingly using online metrics as primary performance measures, but this has dangerous implications for long-term success.

Field claims that since 2012 marketing effectiveness has declined significantly, driven by the new ‘short term mindset’ of marketers, “A lot of people in management do not have marketing backgrounds, and find the short-term argument seductive. They are judged quarter by quarter, and they want results, by quarter. I wish we had more CEOs and CFOs that understand if we restrain marketing to the quarterly cycle, we stuff it.”

This is where long term branding vision and goals are critical and short-term ROI and thinking force marketers to concentrate on the lowest-hanging fruit, targeting those they perceive as most likely to buy; giving a short-term ROI boost, little loyalty or long term profit.

It’s an epidemic.

And some businesses have paid a hefty price for the lesson.

In 2010 Pepsi pulled its annual SuperBowl Campaign to target millennials and all those who’ve embraced social media. They poured their TV budget into a social media campaign called, ‘Pepsi Refresh Project’ with the concept that people would suggest ideas that would have a positive social impact, which people could then vote on via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and Pepsi would fund the winners.

While it achieved millions of likes, re-tweets and followers, as has been seen time and time again, there is no correlation between likes and sales. Pepsi lost a painful 5% share in a year and returned to the Super Bowl.

Social attention and audience building is great for brand awareness pending your business goals and budget, but the fact remains we need to get back to building multi channel brand campaigns for long term benefits.

Let’s break free of short-termism and build strategic campaigns for long term business ROI. The power and potential of the digital world and social media shouldn’t be discounted, although without a comprehensive long-term goal, they become disposable communications without tangible business benefits. As the old adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Interested in solid effective branding and marketing? Check out our work, or view the other work of our swearing, brilliant CD and cohorts here.

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