What Should Be Increasing in 2010: Branding

Blank billboard in desert landscapeAs a recent Financial Times article noted, companies are looking to spend more money in terms of marketing over the next calendar year. While we would love to say that a large piece of the pie would be allocated towards branding and public relations, we are realists and know that the money—for the most part—will go towards ever more advertising efforts.

And that is a damn shame. While advertising may be the flashy cog that looks good in media forms, what does it all mean? Your company is much more than a singing fish, talking baby or another gimmick. Sure you can name what companies are associated with the previously mentioned gimmicks. The question is, do you know what these brands really stand for?

Advertising can’t answer that question—only good brand building can, and that comes from a comprehensive branding and communications program, one that takes a long-term approach to both a short- and long-term business solution.

The fact of the matter is that a company’s brand is its lifeblood. It is what people trust and is eventually what they come to consume. In a down economy where everyone is looking to cut back and tighten their belts, only the strong brands will continue to grow.

So how do you enhance a brand?

You do that with positive public placements and other public-facing campaigns. We all know the PR placements and can tell you how many are in our clip books. The public-facing campaigns, on the other hand, help the customer base connect with your company on a more personal level.

For example, if you are a food company, donating food to local shelters and charitable events can show that your company is more than just another fast food joint—your company actually cares about the community. And in today’s economy, where seemingly every company tries to advertise that it truly cares about its local community, but doesn’t always back up those ads with true community engagement—real, physical engagement with members and organizations throughout a community—a public-facing campaign, one that actually enhances a company’s branding for the long term, will do far more good over the long run than a short-term advertising blitz.

While it’s true that 2010 and 2011 global ad spending looks to increase after two very dismal years in the industry (which PRBC examined in a post last week), what many companies should focus on now is realizing that while they were cutting back on all of that advertising over the past two years’ worth of a recession, what little PR and branding initiatives they kept up likely did them a good bit of long-term good in terms of their overall stance with their customers.

True, a cutting back on advertising may have led to decreased revenues for some companies, but revenues can often be fleeting and a near-constant chase, while a positive brand affiliation—one that leads to long-term company growth and sustainability within a marketplace—is something that should never be given up on or reduced, and PR plays a major role in enhancing both the public- and industry-facing campaigns that help to achieve and grow that brand affiliation.

What are your thoughts? Where (advertising, PR, branding, etc.) should companies focus their marketing efforts in 2010/2011 as the world begins to emerge from the recession?

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