Channel planning: purchase-based vs brand-based (and what that has to do with Pollock)

Media agencies are blessed by current evolutions in communication: not only because media fragmentation requires dedicated specialists that can put together tailor-made plans to harass each and every consumer in more and more ways and places, but also because the growing demand for measurability happily meets media agencies’ familiarity with figures.

And the future holds even better news: with a more complex marketing and a growing need for speed, marketers will need to empower one single entity to manage brand communication, with the legitimacy to take immediate decisions (and risks) in order to ensure a quick reaction on the market.

Big companies can embed that position, smaller companies will have to rely on a partner. (Many marketers have already started doing so, including major companies)

Media agencies are in a better position to take on that role, both for the reasons above, and because creative agencies seems to be so reluctant to change. (As well as to produce some good enough work to help the industry regain that sort of credibility that only a few creative shops retain)

Now, why does it matter whether the leading role is taken on by media agencies or by creative agencies? (I could always move to media, and make sure that I can still pay for my mortgage at the end of each month)

Media agencies have always looked at people as media consumers, and recently opened a second eye to look at people as purchasers involved in a purchase path. It’s common sense: investigate how people go through the purchase process of a given product or service, find out what kind of media/channel gets their attention at each stage, and build a channel plan upon it.

Makes lots of sense. 

Bad news is, it makes sense for consumers, not for brands: if all brands of a given market follow were to follow this model, they would all generate the very same communication plan. They’ld make sure that they’ld be in the place where consumers expects them to be: too bad they’ld be there together with all their competitors.

Creative agencies look at people as people, and look at brands first for their content, that should be unique to them, and only secondly for their purchase process, that is usually the same as their competitors’.

Looking at people as people means that we don’t need to be about to buy a tv, in order to be interested in Sony Bravia. On the opposite, if we’re not within the purchase process, our mind is “clearer”, and we can dedicate Bravia a greater share of mind: and this will make it stand out among the brand clutter,  once we will actually be ready for a new tv.

Looking at brands for their content is the safest way to be consistent and distinctive against competitors: if ads (or any other piece of communication) from Sony Bravia are only found in those media I go through while looking for televisions, I mainly understand that Sony Bravia is a tv. (Big deal.). The piece of communication would really need to be different, unique and engaging to make it stand out, and let me understand that Bravia is “that one kind of tv”, as opposed to all the other I would simultaneously be exposed to.

 If I find a Sony Bravia’s ad at Pollock’s exhibit, I understand that Sony Bravia is about “color”. And if no other tv brand is there, I understand that “Bravia’s color” is “like no other”.  (Assuming that potential consumers of Bravia visit exhibits, that makes quite a difference).

Now, of course Sony needs to be where consumers look for informations on televions: magazines, tech websites, word-of-mouth…

But if communication plans are devised starting from purchase process, Bravia will never meet Pollock. After all, who would visit an exhibit searching for informations on a tv screen? But, wouldn’t it be one of the best places to be for Sony?

Final Burp: In the future, focusing on purchase process might result in many media plans mostly converging to Google: real purchasers in real time. Focusing on people and brand content would result in creative agencies taking care of all the communication that takes place before and after the purchase. It sounds like a lot more.

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6 responses to “Channel planning: purchase-based vs brand-based (and what that has to do with Pollock)

  1. This is a really interesting post. The comment that media agencies will take the role in talking to clients. Im not 100% sure I agree with the angle you have taken though. The short term reason is because we do know numbers. Marketers loose respect in the boardroom until they prove to the CFO why the money they spent last year on marketing was worthwhile. We know who what where when. But dont think we dont know brands and creativity. In the UK we more than know brands. The sony bravia campaign was launched way before for the first TV spot. The build up to the making of the ad was seen by over a million people before the ad was aired. This was driven by a comms planning agency. Who are advanced media guys. Also digital is allowing media people to create things. Media agencies are also hiring account planners to give a more emotional drive within their strategies. Will we lead.. wait a second….. who cares at the end of the day we have strengths that we can bring to the table. Media agencies in most countries left their creative brothers because no one listened to them. Now people have started listening. We should maybe stop all the arrogance and bring our strengths together to do great work for our clients

  2. Mike,

    you undoubtly know numbers (and we should start learning them, too…) and brands.
    I’m more concerned about how marketers are ready to consider channels that are derived from the creative idea, alongside those derived from figures.

    On the other hand, a lot of us in creative agencies think that we should put an end to our divorce from you media guys, and get back together under the same roof. At least for the sake of our kids. Ehm, our work.

  3. Well said. I’ve been having this argument for quite some time as a channel planner at a creative shop – I strive to combine the numbers with the brand message. Often it’s the brand/gut placements that turn out best and have the most impact. But – having a media background I can recognize the importance of swimming where the fish are as well.

  4. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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