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To advertise? Or to use PR? Here is the answer.

Recently a client of Gullan&Gullan's asked the question - When should a brand make use of PR and when should it use paid for advertising? On my quest to find the right answer I happened upon some research conducted by Context Analytics last year. The project's aim was to assess how unpaid media publicity and paid for advertising contributes to brand value.
Desirée Gullan
Desirée Gullan
Thankfully, the findings confirmed what most 360º marketing practitioners intuitively know, and what I answered to our client.

In summary, the findings prove that for some product categories public relations might make more of an impact while in other categories the contrary is true.

Context Analytics studied the relationship between brand value and media prominence and found that media prominence accounts for 27 percent of the variation in a brand's value compared to only 2.3 percent for advertising.

Also, the relative contributions of media prominence and advertising expenditures to brand value depended on the complexity and cost of the brand's products. Among high-involvement brands, such as IT, automotive, consumer electronics and financial services there is a strong connection between media prominence and brand value.

For lower-involvement brands such as personal care and apparel, media prominence was still important, but it played a less-significant role. Among personal care brands like Gillette and L'Oreal media prominence only accounted for about 4 percent of brand value.

While media coverage becomes more important to building brand value for high-involvement products, the opposite is true for low-involvement brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike and McDonald's. For these brands, advertising garnered nearly 25 percent of the variation in brand value.

The key takeaway from Context Analytics' research is that when it comes to products that are expensive, replaced relatively infrequently and differentiated by nascent technologies, customers are going to rely on trusted third parties for advice. These third parties vary widely, from mainstream media to blogs, to forums, to respected friends and communities.

And when it comes to researching whether it's better to purchase an iPhone or a BlackBerry, consumers are far more likely to rely on comparative reviews on websites and in magazines than paid for ads. Consequently, for high-involvement brands a fairly large proportion of marketing budgets should be devoted to PR activity. For brands that rely more on split-second decisions at the point of purchase, such as deciding which brand of toothpaste to purchase, advertising should be most heavily weighted in the marketing mix.

To sum up. Low involvement brands such as FMCGs benefit from above the line media awareness, while high-involvement brands do well from media publicity as perpetuated through a sound PR strategy. Either way, be sure your outputs are executed in a brand-centric™ manner.

Editorial contact
Desirée Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric™ methodology forms the basis of every communication service ensuring that brand equity is enhanced through congruent, consistent expression at every touch point from above and below the line, online, and brand experiences. Visit www.gullanandgullan.com, email desiree@gullanandgullan.com or call 011 887 6591.

25 Aug 2010 11:10