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The business case for marketing balance

3 minute read | Nichole Henderson, Senior Vice President, Product, Strategic Media Research | June 2022

In late May, the U.S. military airlifted 70,000 pounds of baby formula from Europe to the U.S. to help with the national shortage. 

It was another troubling development in what has become a national supply-chain crisis that’s still affecting everything from cars to semiconductors to lumber. And that’s a problem for marketers focused on lower-funnel initiatives when products may not be available anytime soon. Should they continue executing conversion-oriented tactics when supply is low, they risk losing trust when consumers realize the brand can’t deliver on what’s been advertised. 

This current issue will eventually settle down. However, it offers a lesson that’s applicable no matter what the global supply chain looks like: Focusing on long-term brand building is just as important as short-term sales.

In tough economic times, it can be tempting to double down on immediate revenue wins. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, now is exactly when you should be investing in your top-of-funnel marketing. 

Just as the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has long argued, awareness (or “mental availability”) is the best path to customer acquisition. After all, who’s going to purchase your product when they’ve never heard about it in the first place? And with more people shopping online, and with the virtual shelf being infinitely longer than the one at your local grocery store, there’s more competition to beat out. 

Brand awareness is critical. On average, a 1-point gain in brand metrics such as awareness and consideration drives a 1% increase in future sales, according to Nielsen’s research. 

Plus, Americans these days are especially open to trying new products. U.S. consumers say that 12.1% of their online purchases involve a brand they hadn’t purchased before. And, even if you don’t have any inventory to sell at the moment, you can slightly tweak your lower-funnel activities to further strengthen your brand awareness and consideration.

For example, consider replacing a “Buy Now” call to action button with one that says “Sign Up for the Waitlist.” By adding customers to an email database, marketers can automatically provide updates when sought-after products are back in stock, as well as target them with other brand-building messages or even pique their interest in another set of products. 

In this way, you shouldn’t see the two parts of your funnel as at odds. Even when you’re focusing on the long-term health of your brand, both approaches work together to ultimately drive revenue.

Of course, building a strategy that effectively tackles both objectives isn’t always straightforward. Channels that are great for promoting brand equity may not be ideal for driving sales, and vice versa. Marketers need to measure the impacts of both objectives to ensure their full-funnel efforts strike just the right balance.

For more insights on how to grow brand and sales together, visit Nielsen’s Full Funnel Hub.

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