Friday, October 28, 2005

PR (not ads) drive brand building

Time and again, I've seen early stage businesses waste precious resources on ad campaigns that have little impact. The problem is usually timing and technique. Brand (as opposed to direct response) ads usually have little impact unless they are built on a foundation of previous PR efforts. Well-regarded "ad expert" Al Ries published a book that details this insight in "The Fall of Advertising and the rise of PR" (see book summary below). There are nearly an infinite number of ad techniques. One example of direct response advertising is Search Marketing. While it's well-documented the success that Google and Overture are having, it's less known how many small technology firms have effectively used Search Marketing. Search marketing best practices and insights can be culled from sites such as iMedia's -- So much has been written about Search Marketing that I won't belabor it in this post.

Let me give you a brief example of PR
-- I know of a firm that develops an object-oriented open source database that is building its early success on PR. Among other techniques, they have hired an influential blogger in that space who has relationships with many in the open source world. His credibility and access is establishing the firm as a player with this pure "PR" approach.

I've pulled some excerpts from the website "The Fall of Advertising and the rise of PR" linked to above.

"It's the end of the era of advertising domination. Today, great brands are built with PR.

Using in-depth case histories of successful PR campaigns coupled with those of unsuccessful advertising campaigns, The Fall of Advertising provides valuable ideas for marketers—all the while demonstrating why:

  • Advertising lacks credibility, the crucial ingredient in brand building, and how only PR can supply that credibility;
  • The big bang approach advocated by advertising people should be abandoned in favor of a slow build-up by PR;
  • Advertising should only be used to maintain brands once they have been established through publicity.
In the high-technology field, Oracle, Cisco and SAP became multi-billion dollar companies (and multi-billion dollar brands) with almost no advertising.

We’re beginning to see research that supports the superiority of PR over advertising to launch a brand. A new study of 91 new product launches shows highly successful products are more likely to use PR-related activities than less successful ones.

Commissioned by Schneider & Associates in collaboration with Boston University’s Communications Research Center and Susan Fournier, an associate professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, the study is believed to be the first of its kind. We learned that the role of PR, while underutilized, was extremely significant when leveraged,” said the study."

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