Advertising should be more than a reactionary measure when market shares fall, or when a company is looking for larger revenue streams. Instead, advertising should be constant in terms of budget and focus.
Year after year, top-performing companies allocate huge chunks of their operational budget towards marketing initiatives - even when sales are up. Apple is a prime example of this. In 2015, Apple made headlines by increasing its global advertising budget by a whopping 50%, up to $1.8 billion. A company representative explained that Apple's board of directors made this decision because: "[They believe] ongoing investment in marketing and advertising is critical to the development and sale of innovative products and technologies."
Apple's investment paid off handsomely when the company reported record profits of $53.4 billion that year. Clearly, business organizations should never stop advertising when business is good. In fact, it may be best to do the exact opposite: advertise more.
Maintaining TOMA in the Consumer Base
Top-of-mind awareness (TOMA for short) is a key factor in building customer engagement and brand loyalty. All too often, a consumer's purchase decision is informed not by the brand he or she appreciates the most, but rather by the brand that comes to mind first. Thus, advertising designed to maintain and even expand TOMA within the company's consumer base can indirectly lead to increased sales.
Again, major companies like Apple have set a sterling example in this regard. For example, if someone were to ask 100 people which fast food restaurant they prefer during a trip, it is likely that many (perhaps even the majority) would answer: "McDonald's." No doubt the ubiquity of McDonald's ads would contribute to such a response.
If customers are posting about a brand, showcasing a product in their everyday lives, or otherwise acknowledging a company via social media or other forums, then the organization should engage with them, and perhaps re-post their content to maintain TOMA within other consumers. By continuously advertising, companies provide constant reminders to customers and prospects about how, when, where, and why they should do business with them.
Fortifying Trust Based on Current Success
It is important to remember that continuous advertising is not necessarily oriented towards prospects. Rather, it may be heavily focused on current customers. Organizations certainly want to promote TOMA within this most critical subset of their overall consumer base.
Research indicates that it can cost 5 times more money to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. When company leaders acknowledge this fact, they are more willing to direct ad spend towards current customers. This in turn enables customers to "stay connected" with the company, even during times when they are not in need of a product or service. Tax preparation agencies are a classic example of this: even though their advertising efforts logically ramp up in late autumn, continual marketing throughout the summer lays the groundwork for best results during their peak season.
Leveraging Consistency to Drive Profitability
The average consumer has to deal with changes on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Many of these changes can induce anxiety, or even be frightening. As a result, many customers appreciate companies that stay "on brand" with their marketing campaigns. In effect, the company provides the customer with a reassuring pillar of familiarity in the midst of a sea of change.
Consistency is also key to brand positioning. For example, ads that focus on pricing factors are often don’t do as well as those organizations that position themselves as leaders in product quality. Again, Apple's marketing strategy around its smartphones comes to mind, especially in comparison with the brand positioning of some competitors.
As companies deploy highly consistent, yet differentiating advertising tactics, they often foster an increased sense of brand loyalty within their current customers and are better able to attract new consumers to join the fold. They promote total audience engagement and obtain a compounded ROI from their investment.
Continual Advertising as a Key Business Driver
T. Barnum once famously said: "There's no such thing as bad publicity." While the validity of that statement is up for debate, there is a kernel of truth in those words as they relate to the world of advertising. As a company leader, you want to keep your brand top-of-mind for consumers throughout the year. When you maintain a consistent advertising strategy, you foster a feeling of familiarity with existing customers. At the same time, the stability of your brand position will likely attract new prospects into your sales funnel.
While any successful marketing campaign requires an investment of time and resources, viewing your ad spend as a long-term investment will help you to keep the right perspective, and will reduce your company's need for a lift in the future - because your high-performing business will continue to do well.