IPA data shows that under-allocating budget to brand building is to blame.‘Under-allocation is a central reason why effectiveness levels have been falling: we are allowing brands to weaken and, with that, we are losing the valuable choice-priming benefits of brand building,’ says the report. ‘For effectiveness, this is very destructive behaviour.’
And as we’ve touched on already, short-termism almost always points to the bulk of marketing spend being allocated to digital channels. ‘Probably the chief culprit for the declining effectiveness of creatively awarded campaigns is the growing trend by creative awards judges to favour short-term ‘disposable’ creativity,’ deduces the report. ‘Creative awards judges have been entranced by short-term ideas, many of which were relatively low-budget, digitally focused campaigns.’
And this short-termism is a major factor in underperformance. ‘High performers choose long term,’ says the report. ‘They are half as likely to be short-term as low performers. This is reflected in the average duration of high-performing campaigns; they are just over twice as long as those of low performers. Creativity delivers very little of its full potential over short time frames and this is something we have known for much of the last ten years, yet the trend to short-term ‘disposable’ creativity continues.’
This ‘we want it now’ culture has led to the overall benefit of creative campaigns disappearing. ‘While campaigns are achieving these short-term sales activation effects, their ability to build brands has faltered and started to fall away,’ says the IPA. ‘This can be demonstrated through two key metrics that are central to the power of creativity; the ability to generate fame effects (sharing, online and offline conversations, etc) and the ability to strengthen or transform the image of brands (the source of the priming effects that are so valuable to brands).’
Does this refusal to play the long game, rejection of brand building and crumbling of creativity mean we’re being offered increasingly more ‘samey’, bland marketing messages? After all, digital and mobile solutions start from the same technology and manifest themselves on the same devices. And most digital experiences focus on ease of use and purpose, with no wiggle room to express creativity.
Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index) says yes – we’re definitely in a differentiation rut.
In their annual survey of over 100,000 customers to measure how well a brand’s experience strengthens loyalty, the problem points directly to ‘digital sameness’.
‘Many of the world’s most valuable brands find themselves struggling to maintain or improve their CX,’ declares Forrester Principal Analyst Rick Parrish. In the report he organises CX performance into four brand types:
Languishers. High-scoring brands stuck in a rut for two years.
Lapsers. Brands whose performance has steadily declined for one to two years
Locksteppers.Brands that have remained on a par with their competitors.
Laggards.Brands that have remained consistently at the low end of CX performance.
The reasons brands experience the above four stages is because their customers struggle to separate one experience from another. Says the report: ‘The question we’re debating at Forrester is, “In our pursuit of meeting customer needs, have we homogenized the experience itself?”
On the comeback trail?
The study concludes with a stark message to CMOs who want to raise the bar for their brand. And it involves building in a long-term strategy that works alongside what digital delivers. ‘Marketers and agencies will succeed when they put emotion in the code,’ it says. ‘Differentiation lies in the creative expression of the brand and the emotional response it stirs, not in functional convenience built into a digital experience or application. Your job is to steer brands and communication clear of the sea of sameness in order to move both culture and commerce. That is what great creativity has and will continue to do. You should hold experiences to that same high standard, as experience is inextricably intertwined with brand. This is what’s required of CMOs to move the needle.’