Mendelson’s Marketing School: How to Build a Brand That Lasts

Photo Credit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

A big problem in the marketing world is short-termism.

People just care about the metrics. They only care about this quarter. Right now. Not the long term.

This thinking often focuses on Facebook advertising and Google advertising instead of print, television, or radio, even though those options may have benefits that you can’t quantify or see right away.

For example, print is known to have a higher recall rate than Facebook and Google placed advertising. This shouldn’t be a shock. Our brains have been working with print since the days of Sumer, in what is now Southern Iraq.

The marketing metrics may say Facebook and Google are a better choice for your money. But the metrics also remove from your decision-making process all other contexts for the sake of giving you a fact or figure. It also doesn’t consider the interconnected world that we inhabit, where you may see an ad on Facebook, but not necessarily act on it until prompted later by another ad you saw for the same brand elsewhere.

I’m not suggesting you throw out the marketing metrics entirely. The math may be right! But it may also be wrong. Many things your fellow humans can’t be quantified, and that’s the point of this post. The metrics alone shouldn’t be driving your decisions.

If you allow those metrics to make the decision for you, you can’t build a brand that lasts.

Let me give you an example:

Can you recall a Facebook or Google Ad you interacted with recently? Maybe. I see ads for these fancy cat water fountains on Instagram all the time, and I remember them and click on them, but that’s an exception, not the norm.

Mostly though, I blow right by Instagram ads on the way to looking at a story with a sexy guy showing off his incredible abs. (The joys of being a polyamorous bisexual: You get to fuck anyone you want.)

In the case of Facebook and Google advertising, CPA is a useful metric to follow. But it also doesn’t always refer to sales. You could “acquire” a user by getting an email or getting them to download your app, which is what a lot of Instagram ads are based around.

So, you may “acquire” that customer and get a low CPA, but that doesn’t; however, mean you’re going to see any money from that person. It also doesn’t measure whether or not that person has started to develop a pathway in their brain between your ad, your product, and your brand. This is the most important thing, and it shouldn’t go without saying, yet here we are in 2020 having to say it.

The worshipers of Data, Queen in the world of short term thinking, don’t often think about the long term benefits of a marketing campaign. They just look at their spreadsheet, see a low CPA or CAC, and go, “Yeah. Let’s do more of that,” even though plenty of other signs in the business indicate that this may not be the best approach to follow over the long term.

(If you’re struggling to bring in customers, even though you’re running a bunch of different advertising campaigns on Facebook and Google with low CPAs, you’ve got more significant problems to worry about.)

Put another way; you can get GREAT marketing metrics and still have a bad marketing campaign.

I know that sounds counterintuitive, but we live in a world ravaged by a global pandemic that still sees people refusing to wear masks. How’s that for a great marketing campaign with low CPMS and CPAs —“Where a fucking mask!” —and it’s still not seeing the results it should.

I’ve been saying this for years, and it’s worth repeating here: If customers aren’t telling their friends and family on their own about you, with no prompting or soliciting, then you’ve got a problem. And no spreadsheet in the world is going to fix it for you.

It’s true for any branding effort, which I think is the most important thing you should be doing. Good branding will eventually turn into getting your customers to do the marketing for you. Every other marketing tactic should be second to both those things; otherwise, who gives a shit?

Customers have no loyalty to you. If something better and cheaper appears, that’s where customers are going to flock. What keeps the customers around over the long term, and doing that marketing for you is good branding and excellent customer service. Both things that can’t easily be measured.

Content Marketing is another of those things that can’t quickly be measured. It can’t be quantified in the short term and often doesn’t pay off in a short amount of time, so a lot of MBA types refuse to do it. (True story. I had it happen to me once with a company in Chicago. Do you know what kind of service they sold to their customers? Content marketing. Isn’t that hilarious? Some day we’ll get to why I think “The Lean Startup” is poison and leads to shit like this, but that’s for another time.)

Another example:

How many commercials have you watched (not skipped) in the past year where you said to yourself, “God, this sucks.” A lot, right? Well, that’s because the creative team probably had a great idea for the campaign. Still, that great idea got put through a meat grinder to make it more quantifiable for the MBAs.

“We need more blue in this commercial because blue tests better with women!”

“Yes, the main character of this insurance commercial is smart and likable, but can they be an eel instead? Research shows that eels convert better in insurance commercials than humans by 26%.”

That’s why commercials suck today. Because the people with the money are obsessed with metrics, and they are only looking at what the metrics say and nothing else.

Even though those metrics strip all context, meaning, and interconnectedness from the world they’re trying to measure. (Remember, as anthropologist David Graeber put it in his book, “Bullshit Jobs,” the people with the money make the rules. If they’re obsessed with metrics, YOU have to be obsessed with metrics to function in their world.)

This obsession with data often leads to decisions that can remove what is appealing to humans in favor of what’s appealing to machines.

It’s your job to look at both the data and to use your imagination to interpret that data. Not to rely on it blindly and treat marketing metrics as the only thing that matters.

It shouldn’t matter what the people with money think. That’s the old world. The bad one we’re all struggling to survive right now. And part of the reason things are as bad as they are economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally is because of this tiny group of people with money.

1% to be exact.

I can’t fix all of the world’s problems, but when it comes to how you market yourself and your products, I can fix that. I can also fix how you think about these things, which is why I started this series.

These metrics exist to make the data-obsessed and short term thinkers among us happy and to further fuel Facebook and Google’s business model. Not yours.

Building a brand that lasts is NOT something that these metrics know how to process.

B.J. Mendelson is the author of “Social Media Is Bullshit” from St. Martin’s Press.

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