8 actionable insights from ~5000 effies submissions (marketing effectiveness awards)

Last month I visited NAB Bank’s head office here in Melbourne, Australia to indulge in some marketing effectiveness insights. They were hosting an event run by Marketing Week, sponsored by CommBank. None of that is particularly important for you, but I chuckled when I sat in the large NAB red auditorium and the CommBank logo hit the screen, its iconic yellow splashing the walls. 

Mark Ritson was giving a talk. If you don’t know who he is – he’s awesome. He’s consulted to many large, famous and infamous brands across the globe and is currently a professor at Melbourne Business School. His thoughts need not be fact checked – his credentials account for that.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Effies, he performed an analysis of submissions from recent years. He drew marketing effectiveness insights from 4,000-6,000 (specific numbers will be called out in each section below) different submissions and asked an impartial and unbiased jury to rate the submissions on a variety of factors. For those of you who don’t know, the Effies are one of the world’s premiere marketing and advertising awards. Unlike other top awards, they award campaigns on outcomes, not just words or pictures.

I do preface this piece by stating that I am still unsure if I am looking at tips on how to submit a successful award application, or tips on how to run a successful campaign. For now, I lean toward the latter.

 

Does Research Increase Marketing Effectiveness?

n = 5,894

Does research increase marketing effectiveness?

This did not take me by surprise one bit. And, of course it shouldn’t. Research does increase the effectiveness of a campaign. Sounds like common sense – hey? 

Well, it’s common sense until the person who’s responsible for the results of the campaign asks for it to start yesterday. When it’s starting yesterday, there’s no time for any research, which hurts the effectiveness of your campaign. 

As the diagram shows, there’s no need to over do it, but there should always be time for research. 

Don’t jump straight in – take a step back and generate data, information and insights to guide your campaign. Your outcomes, and your bottom line, will thank you.

 

How to Manage a Brand?

How to manage a brand

This was a nice reminder of the importance of not jumping straight into things. Like we’ve always practised, the work behind a brand should be made up of three key items. Tactics, Strategy and then Diagnosis. Wait – something feels wrong there. Oh yes – of course – you can’t think of actionable tactics unless you’ve formulated an appropriate strategy. Nor can you produce a strategy if you haven’t diagnosed a problem. Despite what often happens in practise, marketing solutions should only flow in one direction, from left to right, from Diagnosis, through to Strategy, and then, to Tactics. 

The other way around is like visiting your local GP, sitting on that chair, being immediately prescribed how to apply topical ointment, followed by an antibiotic plan, only to be asked what your true concern is while you’re walking out the door. Give those around you the time to adequately diagnose and plan your marketing efforts before asking them to start yesterday and forever chasing their tail.

For anyone but a boot-strapped startup, â…“ of your time should be spent on each of the three stages. For a boot-strapped startup, you may lean further toward the right, try multiple tactics, see what sticks and work backwards from there. It will likely help you to define your product market fit based on the feedback loop you go through from there.

 

Do More Objectives Equal More Marketing Effectiveness?

n = 5,640

objectives marketing effectiveness

Essentially, two strategic objectives for any campaign is the sweet spot. 

That’s not to say that a campaign cannot achieve effectiveness with more or less objectives – two is the sweet spot and it peters out from there. As long as there’s not just one objective, you’re more likely to be effective. 

Here’s my $0.02 – When setting out to start a campaign, always set two objectives to start off with. If your tactical execution makes sense to aim for more, then add them. If it doesn’t, then don’t.

To be honest, I’d probably say that this could be impacted by the fact that by having more than one  objective you have more objectives to shoot for and hence more likelihood to succeed. 

But, I digress – I did not read through those submissions myself.

 

The long and the short. Quick wins or building trust?

long and short marketing

In the graph above you can see two lines. 

One is a red line that quickly jumps up and down. Imagine that this line is the acceleration and deceleration of your car. Now imagine that instead of your car you’re pumping money into advertising channels. It’s a direct action that results in sales. Put your foot on the accelerator and you’re both spending money (gas) and driving sales (moving forward). Take it off and you stop moving.

The other is a blue line that takes its sweet time to incline. Eventually, it manoeuvres its way past the red line.

What are these  lines showing? The sales uplift over base, over time. That is, how much of a sales increase has been achieved over time, attributable towards direct performance marketing vs brand building.

Your performance marketing is always going to show you sexy numbers at first. But, you then remember that you need to keep tipping cash down that funnel to get results. So, you turn it off when cash is hard, and then your sales turn off. And what do you do? You turn it back on again. You’re not happy about it, but you have no other choice.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

There is a better way. It’s called the long. It’s called investing in your brand. 

I like to think of it as enrolling your company in a Bachelor of Brand. Your company will learn. It will take time. Maybe 2 or 3 years. And when your company graduates, it will have something to stand on. It will be stronger and more powerful than it would be otherwise. And. it will be able to demand a price you will be happy with. A profitable price for a reputable brand. 

You shouldn’t stop the short.

You don’t need to stop the short (performance marketing), though. The short has a place. The short will get you cash, now. By building your long, your short will perform better. By building your short, your bank account will give you some breathing room and you’ll have time to focus on your long.

Your short will thank your long and your long will thank your short. Let them live together, not apart.

Okay Josh – cool. But what do the numbers say? 

Funny you ask!

 

Is Long Better than Short for Marketing Effectiveness?

n = 5,645

long short marketing graph

Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. 

Just look at that, campaigns over 12 months long recorded an average score of 0.48. Compared to those under 6 months at 0.28 / 0.31. The short does help, of course it does, but it is ~55% more likely that a long campaign will be more effective than a short. 

 

In summary, every company should have what Mark calls a two speed brand plan. 

I bloody love it. The long and the short. Move fast, and slow. Don’t choose one, do both. Your short (fast) will help your long (slow) and vice versa. Each will benefit the other and then each will benefit you.

 

Differentiation or Distinctiveness?

differentiation and distinctiveness

This caught me off guard. 

After spending much time identifying unique selling propositions for companies, I’d fallen into the trap of thinking. Thinking too much. Thinking so much that I ended up asking my prospects to think about what I do. It wasn’t abundantly clear what I was offering to my prospects and, as a result, it wasn’t clear how they could engage with me. I obsessed over the minutiae and sprinkled this over all of my comms.

It was too much thinking. Short campaigns can tend to lend themselves towards these tactics. They often propose a company as different to its competitors and ask the consumer to choose based on features and benefits that ask the consumer to think. To think about why they should choose this company.

Mark, rightly so, points out that a differentiated product or service requires customers to think:

  1. Slow
  2. Conscious
  3. Effortful
  4. Complex decision
  5. Reliable

While the power and impact rests with the differentiated product or service, which requires little thinking to select. The customer will likely choose based on their decision being:

  1. Fast
  2. Unconscious
  3. Automatic
  4. Everyday decision
  5. Error prone

Now, let’s use a real world example. Imagine you’re driving down the highway. You’re moving at a fast pace. You’re hungry and you see a stopover. 

As you glide down the highway and you peer out the window while surely still looking at the road, you see an unfamiliar green sign. In this instance, I’ll pick on the new(ish) healthy fast food chain – Olivers. You try to quickly read the signs that tell you that it’s healthy, good (or as they say – real) food. You consider pulling over, still unsure, you ask your passenger to pull up the menu on their phone. But, you remember that you’re driving 100km/h on a highway and you’ve missed your opportunity. You will not be eating at Olivers.

10km later and you see the arches, the golden arches, hovering over the horizon. You don’t even need to think about it – you’re pulling over there.

It’s probably not the right decision (for your health) but it’s the one you made. You’re sitting in McDonald’s wondering how they got you again. Well, they invested in their long. You trust their brand and know what you’ll get. You don’t need to think about your choice, your choice was made years ago when they won you over for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc time.

 

Codes and their importance for marketing effectiveness

I won’t venture too deeply into codes, as this is more on the branding side of things than on the marketing – although it does impact marketing effectiveness significantly. Of course, branding in more cases than not supports marketing effectiveness. In fact, that is the whole point of this section. Get your branding right – it will help your marketing effectiveness.

So, what is a code? It’s a logo, shape, pattern, colour, founder, font, packaging, character, product cue, location or a celebrity. Yes, a location or a celebrity are a code. They’re a distinctive item associated with a brand. 

In the example above, it was McDonald’s golden arches. In the image above, it’s the holding shape that contains the Snickers logo. It’s Adidas’ three lines (which are not the Adidas logo). It’s Marvel’s distinct red. It’s Melbourne Bank’s purple. Purple everywhere. Or Me Bank’s smiley face.

A code makes your job as a marketer much easier. You’ve just done half the work of asking your prospect to remember you by making yourself distinct and consistent. Build a code, put it everywhere, and stick to it. It’s one of the best things you can do for you marketing effectiveness. 

Your codes will help ensure that your prospects know that it is your brand who is speaking to them. It will maintain salience with the brand. It will help you to link your advertising to your brand’s trust, and in effect, achieve the long and the short – both at the same time.

Interested in how building codes and a visual identity can help your brand build trust? We wrote about it here ->

 

Do more channels = more marketing effectiveness?

n = 4,855

more channels more effective

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The more channels a campaign is run in, the more likely it is to be effective. 

The sweet number appears to be 4 or more channels, with some wavering results between 4-7. My guess is that those campaigns were running on a thin budget which couldn’t stretch that far. But, in essence, a second channel will give you another touch point to reach your audience, and/or another channel to reach new prospects. We know that touch points lead to sales and we know that different people hang out in different places.

So, this makes sense. The hard part? Identifying, prioritising and optimising those channels so that they’re performing as needed to achieve objectives. Check out our post on that for more on this topic ->

 

Wrapping up

Well, there you have it. 8 actionable takeaways from Mark Ritson’s analysis of the recent year submissions of the Effies. I hope this helps to define your brand and action guide towards actioning the right strategy for your business.

If you want to dive further into any of these, Mark has made an awesome video series in which he goes into deeper detail on 10 of his favourite submissions. You can watch it here ->

Oh, and I also learned that Mark swears more than anyone I’ve ever met – in or out of a presentation. It was actually fucking refreshing! 

Hedgehog is a creative and marketing firm that specialises in startups, new brands and ideas we believe in. We help you to make better marketing decisions and be better positioned in the market. Find out more ->

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