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The Great Madison Avenue Branding Rip-Off: Part II

February 14th, 2006 by Bob Bly

In an earlier post, I quoted top copywriter Richard Armstrong as saying that ?branding is just one of MANY credibility factors that go into an advertisement ? you CAN?T build your whole marketing campaign around it.?

Richard continues: ?The fact is that ?brand loyalty,? which is the Holy Grail of Madison Avenue, is really a mile wide and an inch deep for most customers.

?I have brands that I prefer among just about everything I buy … but virtually ever single one of them is negotiable. Show me that your product is cheaper and/or better than my current brand, and I’ll switch in a heartbeat.?

?I’m a big fan of Allen-Edmonds shoes, for example. For years, I was always telling people about how comfortable and well-made they are.

?A few weeks ago, I was telling this to a friend of mine, and he said, ?You should try Cole-Hahn, they’re better.? I said, ?No way!!? He said, ?Try them.?

?So I tried them. Guess what? I now wear Cole-Hahn shoes. So much for brand loyalty!?

The conclusion: brand loyalty is fleeting. Unless your advertising provides a compelling reason why the consumer should buy your product instead of competing products, you won?t be able to pull consumers away from those competitors. Right?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2006 at 11:46 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

48 responses about “The Great Madison Avenue Branding Rip-Off: Part II”

  1. Andrew Johnson said:

    I was watching the superbowl, saw Pizza Hut’s ad, though hmm pizza, and ordered Dominos. These branding campaigns offer huge oppurtunites for other companies in the same catagory.

  2. Jim Logan said:

    I agree. Take the Super Bowl for example. Days after the Super Bowl, what ads, products, and companies do you remember? Millions of dollars were spent on advertising, what do you remember?

    If you’re like most people, you remember a commercial or two, have a vague recollection of the companies that bought ads, but overall have little idea of the who, what, and why of Super Bowl commercials. It’s to be expected.

    Most commercials offer little to remember. Some are cute, I especially like the beer commercials, but I don’t think any are effective at growing market share or enticing us to try a product.

    None of the commercials make an offer or ask us to do anything. Most of the commercials don’t seem to have a point at all, just cute video that could be used with a number of products and companies. Blah.

    I’m sure there are studies that show the Super Bowl commercial-type branding works. But with who? If you don’t drink Bud Lite today, are the commercials about horses playing in an open field going to make you drink it tomorrow? I think not.

    I wonder what would happen if more commercials were about the benefits of the product, the difference offered as compared to other products and services, and the reasons you and I can believe the benefits and difference is real.

  3. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob, You’re “99 and 44/100ths percent” right!

    But that’s Madison Avenue branding. I prefer to think of a different kind of branding:  Number Seven in Lester Wunderman’s “Nineteen Things All Successful Direct Marketing Companies Know” is

    “Build the ‘Brand Experience.’ ”

    Customers have to know and feel the brand as an experience that serves their individual needs. It has to be a total and ongoing immersion in satisfaction that includes everything from packaging to point of purchase, repurchase, and after-sale service and communications.

  4. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob, You’re “99 and 44/100ths percent” right! (see

    But that’s Madison Avenue branding. Remember Number 7 in Lester Wunderman’s “19 Things All Successful Direct Marketing Companies Know”? (

    “Build the ‘Brand Experience.’ ”
    “Customers have to know and feel the brand as an experience that serves their individual needs. It has to be a total and ongoing immersion in satisfaction that includes everything from packaging to point of purchase, repurchase, and after-sale service and communications.”


  5. Patrice Robertie said:

    It seems to me in my travels that the people who bleat loudest about “branding” are the ones who can not (or do not want to) do the work of creating “compelling reason” advertising.

    It’s easier to bleat … and (sadly!) they seem to make great money at it.

  6. Scott Thorne said:

    Brand loyalty only works as long as competing products are equal. You thought Allen-Edmonds were better but tried Cole-Hahn and found they had a relative advantage. I doubt if you would have changed if you had found they were only equal to Allen-Edmonds in comfort and quality.

  7. Kammy Thurman said:

    Scott Thorne said, “Brand loyalty only works if competing products are equal.”

    I don’t agree that it works even then. Look how many people hold multiple loyalty cards for competing companies? Businesses can’t even bribe loyalty out of people much less accomplish it with cutsey commercials. Behavioral loyalty research shows only 10% of frequent buyers stay loyal to a brand for one year. And in fact, it revealed such programs “do not fundamentally alter market structure and, instead, increase market expenditures without really creating any extra brand loyalty.”

    So why sink millions of dollars into brand-driven commercials and other loyalty gimmicks when all they do is eat into the marketing budget w/out significant return? It just doesn’t make good business sense — for anyone but the ad agencies.

    As far as I can see, branding has become a convenient excuse to explain away anemic advertising. There’s no reason in the world why branding and sales should be mutually exclusive. Sales-driven messages go a long way toward building brand because good copy creates a deep impression of the product/company even as it’s making the sale.

    Does anyone really think Pepsi’s “brown and bubbly” commercial is going to send people flocking to the grocery for Diet Pepsi — or build brand equity for it — when the first thing that leaps to mind is “EEEEWWWW! Sounds toxic!”

  8. Rob Swanson said:

    “Brand” is often misunderstood. It isn’t just the identity of a company, but the emotional “hooks” a company sinks into you. For example, Progresso is a superior soup to Campbell’s, but I associate Campbell’s with my childhood, so guess which one I stick with?

    You can even buy a shareware Office suite for twenty bucks, but I keep shelling out several hundred because Microsoft, despite its bugs, has an irrational emotional connection for me.

    Branding doesn’t bring a customer in, but executed properly, it can keep customers coming back. It isn’t foolproof, though, and it doesn’t stand apart from marketing, but it doesn’t hurt.

  9. it does matter said:

    Cole-Hahn has “better” prices but how did you determine that their product is superior to Allen-Edmonds? Perhaps you must feel like you own the best to wear it? There are better shoes than both but you would not feel inclined to pay it’s premium.

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