Understanding the Limits of a Brand

As I’ve said many times, agency life is amazing. Agency marketers are some of the luckiest people on the planet. We get to work with great brands, help launch new products, work with exceptionally smart people, and probably party harder and have more fun than people in any other industry.

However, if you were to take a sneak peak inside the marketing brain, you’d get a glimpse at our biggest fears. And you’d probably come away thinking we’re insecure masochists. Just under our consciousness are horrible aching fears that keep us up at night and give us cold sweats.

Does what we do even matter? How many impressions, clicks, or downloads does it take to feel like we’ve made the world a better place? Can the brands we promote really live up to their promise and potential? Will our client pick the best campaign concept or will they default to something close to what they have now? Something they don’t even really like? Something that feels safe? Will the client we just knocked it out of the park for fire us because one of our competitors gave them a better rate?

And maybe our biggest fear: do our clients have a firm, realistic grip on what their brands can really be?

This is one of the biggest challenges we face in our industry -- helping our clients understand the proper role for their brand in the world.

Sure, many of our clients have internal marketers or marketing teams. But something strange happens when a brand pays a person to do internal marketing. That person starts drinking the Kool-Aid. They start to lose all context for the limits of their brand.

Despite, hating spam, like all people do, they fall in love with the idea of sending emails about their brand – opt-in be damned. Frequency caps – what are those? “Let’s bombard people with retargeting and behavioral ad targeting,” they think.

Somehow they delude themselves into thinking that their new B2B toilet paper dispenser should be the first and only thing everyone thinks about. Sure – I can’t wait to follow, Tweet, Retweet, Instagram, Snapchat, and text my friends about how your toilet paper dispenser saves companies 8.3% compared to your competitors!

This is why our job does matter. We have to be the voice of reason.

The key challenge, though, lies in understanding the proper role for a brand in our lives.

It has to be real. It has to be authentic. It has to make sense.

All brands have untapped potential, but there are also real limits. Limits to when, where, and how people want to interact with a brand. Don’t get me wrong, I love the enthusiasm. I love the passion. But maybe the first litmus test should be our own common sense.

When that fails, agencies like us need to be ready to answer the call.

And we need to be ready to decide, objectively, whether that industrial toilet paper dispenser really is worth Tweeting about.

Written by Brian Easter on March 20, 2015


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