According to regular B&T columnist Dan Machen (pictured below).
With a keynote that would have been a broadside to the godfathers of Binet, Field & Ritson, Byron Sharp was once again portrayed as the Holy Spirit of marketing – a sort of omni-response guy for thought leadership in marketing. If the title added GST, then that’s one thing, thumbing your nose at practitioners as diligent and learned as Peter Field and Les Binet, or as experienced as Mark Ritson, isn’t a great look. As always, our thought leadership folds into a clicker contest, when beneath the startling polarization of headlines, we stomp on nuances that actually have value in advancing the collective thought. To address some of the points specifically raised from the article in the bullets/shots fired below:
- Professor Byron Sharp told marketers to focus on the basics – creating mental and physical availability and advertising consistently throughout the year – to drive growth.
- Addressing the divide between the brand and performance camps, or “activation and advertising,” Sharp said brands need both, but without advertising building memory structures, no amount of advertising performance would generate growth.
- Sharp dismissed the 60:40 mark-to-performance ratios formulated by Les Binet and Peter Field as being based on unsubstantiated awards data.
I have no doubt it has been reported both accurately and gleefully – a semblance of soush like this among marketing literati makes for big headlines. My problem with this is that, amid such broad broadsides and generous backhands, it ignores what diligent practitioners like Binet and Field have already conceded in terms of limitations in their data set and tramples on the nuance that they added themselves afterwards to their work.
By “rejecting” mnemonics like 60/40, which emphasizes the balance between brand advertising and performance activation, we are devaluing a debate that was progressive, for a suggested schism that is not as dramatic as the headlines would have us believe.
To address the points raised, Binet and Field’s work aligns to a large extent with Byron Sharp’s quote from Les Binet, “The most effective marketing strategies speak to everyone. Marketing is a numbers game. Or, as Byron Sharp of the world-renowned Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has repeatedly proven, to grow your brand, you need to reach both buyers and non-buyers. We can never say it enough.
Building on the work of Binet, Field, and Ritson, they all champion a need for what Ritson calls a need for “bothism” – championing the top and bottom of the funnel and focusing on optimizing the mix to more efficiency. Binet and Field specifically argue that brands that rely solely on performance activation are likely to experience suboptimal growth and talk about the need for balance – while pointing out the particularly caustic effect of disabling advertising brand on reducing efficiency and limiting growth.
In Binet and Field’s next paper, “Effectiveness in Context,” they double down on the effectiveness of brand advertising, saying that “there is no context in which short-term sales activation is the main engine of growth”. Additionally, according to the headline, Binet & Field specifically relies on its own 60/40 principle, noting that “Overall, brand spend needs to grow, but there are significant variations by industry.” It depends on the category, the brand/product life cycle, the degree of innovation and also the predominant channels in which the brands operate.
Based on all of the above, the protagonists of this particular fight seem to me to be in violent agreement, more than anything else.
Importantly, Binet and Field also acknowledge the limitations of their dataset, but to label it “rewards data” is so reductive it seems facetious. The IPA Databank has over 20 years of data, it examines the trading results of winners and non-winners. His analysis is a diligent attempt to move marketing thinking forward, and while not perfect, it’s a step in a direction that adds to one or more efforts – particularly focusing on new customers. and as brand advertising as the main lever for growth.
In terms of what Sharp is pursuing, there’s real merit in focusing on sophisticated mass marketing and finding what’s heterogeneous in the greatest audience opportunity versus niche targeting and it gets a real AMEN criticizing the lack of frequency limitation on repeating commercials in the same BVOD break.
However, two things Sharp brings up repeatedly that are worth debating are his assertion that for mental availability, “you have to reach everyone in the category, you can’t just target sensitive people…and distribute your budget over time slots, over places. .”
If you are Mars or Coca-Cola, you can probably reach 90% of all adults at +6 frequency. The challenge for so many brands is that the blitzscale approach seems overpriced. (Appreciating the challenge is getting your budget to go as far as possible, but the inaccessibility of reaching all shoppers is an elephant in the Zoom that isn’t often discussed.)
The second point, this dynamic creation undermines the ability to create memory structures through consistent use of distinctive brand assets. I think that in the media context in which this remark is mainly made, the comment is largely valid. However, to once again stand up to inflexible black-and-white truths is that bending brand codes once established can be a great way to create cognitive closeness for an audience and induce recall by creating new associations and injecting some pleasure. More possessing a more cognitive entry point than the typical category entry points adored by Ehrenberg-Bass.
As opposed to guns at dawn saying “Damn your data!” my passionate plea to marketing thought leadership is to be a little less, dare I say it, Byronic. Adopt the arguments made by Binet & Field and Ritson as the positive steps they were and are based on evidence-based results and that invaluable extra data point in life – experience. Let’s be a little less binary in our exchanges and adopt a respectful trait of Bothism – as Mark Ritson said when he introduced the concept – “From now on, when you are presented with a marketing concept as superior to another, do not reject this argument but try, mightily, to add the alternative view as well.