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Budgeting for the Upturn – Does Share of Voice Matter

6 minute read | Nikki Clarke, Marketing Mix Consultant, The Nielsen Company, United Kingdom | August 2009

SUMMARY: Advertisers seek to understand the relationship between share of voice (SOV) and share of market (SOM). Many factors besides SOV contribute to increased market share including: brand size; life cycle stage; “newness”; campaign quality.

In the ongoing battle for greater sales and more market share, marketers are left wondering which strategy will increase their brand’s strength. In today’s tough economic times, advertisers seek insights to guide them in spending their limited budgets as efficiently as possible.

Advertisers seek insights to guide them…

Most companies are trimming ad budgets. Global advertising expenditure across television, newspapers, magazines and radio recorded a 7.2% drop for the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period in 2008. In addition, with the explosion of consumer-generated media, these traditional advertiser-led media outlets are less trusted by consumers. Recommendations by personal acquaintances and consumer opinions posted online are now the most trusted forms of advertising globally, according to the latest Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey. However, advertisers will be encouraged to learn that brand websites—the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising—are trusted by as many people as online consumer opinions.

The concept of equilibrium

All things being equal, a brand whose share of voice (SOV) is greater than its share of market (SOM) is more likely to gain market share.

A Brand That Punches

Excess share of voice (ESOV = SOV – SOM) is an important contributor to the level of growth. Brand size and life cycle stage also played a role in the analysis. To quantify just how much market share grows when advertisers increase their SOV, 123 brands were analyzed, across 30 different categories of ‘typical’ advertising (i.e., not award-winning campaigns).

Excess share of voice can drive market share…

On average, a 10 point difference between SOV and SOM leads to 0.5% of extra market share growth. Therefore, a brand with a market share of 20.5% with an ESOV of 10 points would grow to 21% market share over a year.

So, what is the implication for media planning? Excess share of voice can drive market share. The 10 to 0.5 ratio norm can be used for market share forecasting purposes when setting targets for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands. In the study, there were large variances across particular categories and brands; therefore, a brand should measure its specific relationship between SOV and SOM to provide an accurate benchmark.

Drivers of growth

A number of factors explained the variation from the 10:0.5 normative return:

  • Brand size
  • Leaders vs. challengers
  • New brands and new news
  • Campaign quality

Brand size matters

There were wide disparities between the levels of growth achieved per point of ESOV by large brands compared to smaller ones. Smaller brands face an uphill battle to grow their market share through share of voice alone, and will almost certainly require ad campaigns with above-average effectiveness in order to succeed. Larger brands have distribution, range, and pricing to help to maintain and increase share. As a result, their ad campaigns do not have to be as effective.

Growth vs Excess Share

Brand leaders vs. challenger brands

On average, brand leaders achieved 1.4% of share growth per 10% of ESOV, compared to 0.4% for challenger brands. Therefore, a typical FMCG challenger needs to be at least 3.5 times as effective as the leader to level the playing field. In this context, it is easy to see why challenger brands have to take a different approach to deliver the same scale of efficiency as the brand leader.

Challenger brands have to take a different approach…

To illustrate the struggle faced by challenger brands, these findings were applied to compare the growth that would be achieved by a market leader to that achieved by a challenger brand if both sustained 10% of ESOV.

Challenger Brands

Brand launches or re-launches typically achieved 15-25% greater growth…

New brands and new news

Introducing something new for the brand or category generally resulted in greater growth responsiveness to ESOV. Brand launches or re-launches typically achieved 15-25% greater growth per point of ESOV than the norm. Brands in younger categories with less competition also fared better than those in mature categories.

Campaign quality

Using the right copy is a significant driver of brand growth. Campaign quality is the most significant driver of consumer-generated media and is important for traditional and new media. Nielsen investigated drivers of word of mouth, or ‘buzzability’. An example includes two United Kingdom ad campaigns that utilized viral marketing to elevate their brands to a whole new level of awareness.

In an attempt to reverse a long-term decline in the U.K. tea market and ignite sales for its PG Tips brand of tea, Unilever re-introduced “Monkey” in 2007—a widely popular animated puppet in the form of a knitted sock monkey as ambassador to the brand. The PG Tips Monkey campaign broke the mold in terms of cutting through buzz. However, when the award-winning Cadbury Gorilla aired a few months later, online chatter increased dramatically, and YouTube received 500,000 page views in the first week after launch, exceeding the levels achieved by the PG Tips Monkey to set a new benchmark.

Right Copy

Application for media planning

Clients are faced with increasing, maintaining, or decreasing support for their brand. In the short-term, it is tempting to make cuts to media investments. However, what is the impact in the long term? Three scenarios were investigated to demonstrate the use of the ESOV-growth model as a planning tool.

Scenario one used an extreme example, which showed the effect of a typical brand leader cutting its media budget to zero for two years while others maintained 2% media budget growth. The result showed that when the advertiser cut all spending, market share fell from 33.3% to 28.5% in the third year.

In scenarios two and three, the effects of two brand strategies were compared. One brand chose a modest investment strategy versus a more realistic reduced investment strategy. The investor brand raised activity by 2% in the first year, then by 3.5% in the second year, and finally by 4.5%. The disinvestor brand cut its activity by 20% in year one followed by 10% and stayed flat in the last year.

Short-term reductions to investment damage a brand in the long term…

The outcome was enlightening. While the investor brand increased market share 15% in year three and grew profit by 2%, the disinvestor brand declined 20% losing 3% of profits. The apparent result is that short-term reductions to investment damage a brand in the long term, whereas brands that continue to invest maintain a stronger position over time.

The long view

Short-term reductions to media investments will likely damage a brand in the long-term. Clients that take a long view of brand strategy will emerge out of the down economy in a stronger position than those who focus on short-term savings.

To grow market share, five guiding principles can help navigate the correct levels of SOV investment:

  1. SOV alone is not enough. Using the right copy is critical to drive returns
  2. SOV/SOM differential matters. Excess SOV delivers growth: typically, 0.5% for a 10-point differential
  3. Brand size matters. Market leaders drive greater returns from SOV than challengers.
  4. ‘Newness’ delivers higher gains. Launches/younger categories respond at a higher level.
  5. Short-Termism is dangerous. Correct level of SOV + quality campaign = stronger brands.

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