I saw a news article this week which made me think about branding vs. audience engagement.
More specifically, it made me wonder how big the gap might be between marketing investments that primarily strive for brand awareness, and marketing that focuses on creating true business-building customer engagement.
Maybe you saw the article, too. Monday’s AdvertisingAge e-newsletter reported on Aflac’s search for a new “spokes-quacker.” The insurer recently cut loose comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the voice behind its brand mascot, the now famous Aflac duck.
Gottfried had tweeted a reference to the tsunami in Japan, using it as the basis for a wisecrack about the current state of his love life. With 70 percent of Aflac’s revenue coming from Japan, the tweet prompted Aflac marketers to send Gottfried packing.
The article went on to report:
- Aflac’s Gottfried-voiced duck campaign, which debuted in 2000, is largely credited with driving the company’s brand awareness from 11 percent to 95 percent as far back as 2006.
- Since 1999, Aflac’s market share in the accident and health insurance category has grown from 7.88 percent to 9.04 percent, making Aflac in 2010 the category’s No. 1 brand.
- Aflac spent $81 million on “measured media” last year.
- While the insurer has cut ties with its spokesperson, the spokes fowl will continue to feather Aflac’s nest. “The duck is here to stay,” was the quote from an Aflac marketer.
Branding vs. Customer Engagement
I don’t have the real data on this, but let’s assume Aflac has spent at half its 2010 pace on duck-driven advertising over the past decade. If so, it’s probably invested more than $400 million to make an impression on the market through the voice and playful antics of a duck.
In return, the company saw brand awareness skyrocket by more than 80 percentage points. At the same time, the company’s business as gauged by market share (not a true measure of revenue and ROI, but let’s call it a proxy) grew just over one percentage point.
Accident and health insurance is presumably a multi-billion insurance category, so a gain of one point in market share certainly represents a boatload of additional revenue.
Still, the story made me wonder what might have happened to share and revenue if Aflac had spent an equal amount of money on content marketing. Maybe not even an equal amount. Let’s say a fraction of that amount.
Dunno the answer. Not sure there is a definitive answer. In fact, I’m not even sure this is a criticism of Aflac’s marketing strategy. The question just came to mind.
What’s your take?
It’s no longer 1999. It’s 2011. If you had the option to spend $80 million this year to have an animal squalk at your audience, in hopes of growing awareness for your brand, or spend $8 million on content, looking to attract customers into engagement with your brand, which would you choose?