|Image from Energizer.com|
I'll explain what brand linkage is, why it's important, and what happens when great advertising has poor brand linkage - it's not always bad, as long as you're the industry leader, as illustrated by the Energize Bunny example.
WHAT IS BRAND LINKAGE?
Have you ever watched a TV commercial that was incredibly amusing, but once the advertising was over, you couldn't recall the brand being promoted? Or have you ever seen an entertaining ad in which the product category (e.g., beer, athletic footwear) was very memorable, but the specific company or brand behind it was not? These are examples of advertising with poor brand linkage - they were not able to connect the appeal and message of the ad to a specific brand. With good brand linkage, the consumer strongly associates the brand with the message.
WHY IS BRAND LINKAGE IMPORTANT?
Without strong brand linkage, you might promote your industry or category without helping your own brand. Or, you might go through a lot of effort to amuse television viewers for 30 seconds with no specific benefits to your brand. At worst, you could pay a lot of money for advertising that ends up helping your competition.
THE ENERGIZER BUNNY EXAMPLE
In the 1990s, the Energizer battery company launched a series of memorable commercials in which the Energizer Bunny - a pink toy rabbit that plays a bass drum - would continue to perform and roll around the screen long after toys powered by other batteries had died. The Energizer Bunny was also a spoof on similar bunnies that the industry leader, Duracell, had used in their ads. Unfortunately for Energizer, many consumers thought the ads were for Duracell and Duracell continued to maintain their leadership position.
PROMOTING THE CATEGORY HELPS THE INDUSTRY LEADER
You don't have to feature your competition in your advertising to inadvertently help them. Launching ads that have poor brand linkage and/or highlight your category instead of your brand will end up helping the category leader. Here's how that works:
- Your advertisement promotes your product category
- Consumers see it and are moved to buy more of the category
- They spend more on the category, but on the brands they already buy
Let's suppose you run a small, new, but promising canned soup company and you start running advertising that does a great job of motivating consumers to buy more canned soup. Unless that advertising also strongly links the advertising and those purchases to your brand, consumers will buy more, but not from you. Instead, they'll just buy more soup from the brand(s) they already buy. Campbells owns about 60-70% (Campbells, Yahoo Finance, Businessweek) of the canned soup market - as a result, they will capture roughly 60-70% of the incremental soup business your advertising generates.
BRAND LINKAGE IS DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPORTANT TO SMALL COMPANIES
If you have a new player and/or have relatively low market share in your category, it is especially important that your advertising have strong brand linkage. Reasons for that include: