Thought Leadership

Short term thinking has always been a challenge for brands. Is now the time to play the long game?

The long and the short of it marketers need to plan for the long-term in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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Instant gratification is at the heart of modern day culture. Order something online and it can arrive within the hour; waiting for a drink should take no longer than five minutes and as for incremental gains, forget it.

When we want something, we want it now, and brands have been behaving accordingly for years. But at what cost? Short termism has always been a challenge for brands as they struggle to keep up with and simultaneously react to the ever-shifting consumer landscape. 

Even prior to the pandemic, marketing commentators had questioned brands’ reliance on heavy price discounting and campaigns designed to garner short-term headlines as opposed to long-term strategic games. Yet in the wake of the coronavirus crisis the long and the short of it has been for many categories long-term planning was increasingly out of reach. A situation which means that the important risks being overlooked by the seemingly urgent.

So, as we tentatively take the first steps out of lockdown perhaps now it’s time to play the long game. To engage with what your consumers are truly after and to win their trust with a brand ethos that will last. That will outlive the trends of ages instant and instead build a consumer base that is in it for the long haul.

As Matt Saunby, Executive Creative Director at 2050 said, “Mainstream culture will start rejecting things that look and feel disposable.”

With this in mind, we asked a selection of industry experts, if short termism has always been a challenge for brands, is now the time to play the long game?

Our focus should be on capturing the increased charitable intent by recruiting those most likely to give to us in the long term, and not fall prey to short term trends.

Cameron Cumming

Cameron Cumming

Cameron Cumming JAA.jpeg

Business Director

John Ayling & Associates

The last year has made it harder for some brands to look too far ahead especially as the changing behaviours brought about by successive lockdowns has led to some odd outcomes for brands, not least in the charity sector. 

Before the first lockdown there was concern about how the public mood and economic uncertainty would impact charitable giving, with hindsight our concerns were unfounded. Using our proprietary charity insight tool RCS (Real-time Charity Scorcard), we saw charity donations across all our clients rise over the last 12 months, charitable events aside. Those most likely to donate found themselves with few things to spend their money and the public mood shifted towards charity with Captain Tom highlighting a desire from the public to get behind worthy causes.  

This led to a trend of increased one-off cash donations and a question around whether we should capitalise on this trend to raise money in the short term. The simple answer is no. The increased cash donations are a result of household spending decreases and not a long-term shift in donations. Once the country opens up, the pressure on people’s pockets will increase again, and cash donations will likely fall. Our focus should be on capturing the increased charitable intent by recruiting those most likely to give to us in the long term, and not fall prey to short term trends.

Short-termism wasn’t optional; it was survival.

Meryl Draper

Meryl Draper

Quirk Creative_Meryl Draper (1).jpg

Founder

Quirk Creative

Amidst the worst retail sales in 25 years and slowed consumer spending, a year ago brands began to increasingly shift into direct response (DR) marketing, acutely aware of the need to drive sales in order to stay afloat during the pandemic. Facebook and Google noted the DR advertising rise, calling it ‘a bright spot’ in their ads business. On the front lines of video ad creation, we also saw the trending shift towards DR. Many of our clients slashed brand-building campaigns in favour of quick-to-market DR initiatives. Short-termism wasn’t optional; it was survival.  

But is a singular focus on DR enough to keep brands afloat into the future, in that nebulous post-pandemic world? I’m not so sure. On the heels of rising consumer spend, brands must shift their views of the role short-termism plays in their advertising mix. That’s why I predict this will be the year of Brand Response, that delicate creative that balances a brand-forward narrative without sacrificing performance. A step forward into a return to ‘marketing normalcy’, if you will. 

Short-termism and the DR-centric advertising approach that comes with it helped brands survive. Moving back into a healthier brand/DR mix will ensure they thrive. 

Mainstream culture will start rejecting things that look and feel disposable.

Matt Saunby

Matt Saunby

Matt Saunby, 2050.png

Executive Creative Director

2050

Yes.

People realise the power and responsibility of brands more than ever.

How they shape cultures, society and the world.

They care how products are made and how they impact the world in the long run.

Brands that don’t align to these values, won’t survive in the future.

But I think it will go deeper than NPD, brand platforms and sustainability goals.

I suspect, and hope, there’s a more profound tipping point that will impact design, art and all communications.

Mainstream culture will start rejecting things that look and feel disposable.

Things that don’t look like they were built to last or feel considered.

That look a by-product of short-term thinking.

Thinking that’s led to our species greatest threats.

The never-ending scrolls on our phones.

The Candy Crush generation, instant gratification, little hits of dopamine from our social feeds could be rejected.

The new technologies that enable mountains of cheap looking, disposable content could be rejected.

It’s not just that brilliant well-crafted communications help build brands for the ‘long term.’

It’ll be a necessity to do so, in-order to be accepted by culture.

Brands need to make more purposeful statements.

But they also now need to feel in-disposable in doing so.

Advertisers often fail to recognise that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain or receive a referral from an existing one.

Heather Connearn

Heather Connearn

Heather Connearn, Space & Time.jpg

Director

Space & Time

The strategy to reduce performance marketing for brands like Airbnb comes as no surprise during the pandemic. A unique proposition coupled with strong brand recall have likely enabled them to drop activation channels whilst maintaining performance.

For the lesser-known advertiser this proposition seems much riskier. Undoubtedly the pandemic has highlighted the importance for advertisers to focus not just on generating enquiries but on building trust in their brand. Short-termism can ignore the opportunity to reduce customer churn and increase revenue through loyalty. Advertisers often fail to recognise that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain or receive a referral from an existing one.

There is no definitive formula for the mix of budget that should be spent on performance and brand, each strategy needs to be tailored to meet the advertiser’s objectives. What works in month one will not be the same in month six. A successful growth marketing solution requires a long-term strategy that focuses on brand and activation channels at the top of the funnel but also has consideration for post-purchase touchpoints that generate retention and recommendation.

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