Television Advertisements – Clutter breakthrough and Brand Relevance

Before reading this article, just close your eyes zeroing your mind for a moment and recollect three television advertisements. Write down a few details of each of the television advertisements you could recollect.

Of all the numerous advertisements I’ve watched, I could recollect only three advertisements:

  1. The old Nescafe advertisement
  2. The recent Flipkart’s advertisement of office-going children
  3. The JK Cement advertisement

These are the only three advertisements I could recollect instantaneously. It is strange to think that I hardly could recollect any other advertisements.  Now, close your eyes and recollect a few brands.  I recollected a few brand names listed the following:

  1. Dairy Milk (chocolate)
  2. Kellogg’s
  3. Dettol
  4. Coca-Cola
  5. Pepsi
  6. ICICI Bank
  7. Samsung
  8. McDonalds
  9. Ford Figo
  10. Flipkart

Also, if one wants to understand which brands do consumers associate with a category, then we have to ask the consumers to recollect advertisements w.r.t those categories. The above shouldn’t be mixed with this.

Clearly, the top of mind (TOM) set of brands are the above. I read through the list and tried to recollect the last seen advertisement in each of these brands. I could recollect the advertisements of all the above brands. Now, why couldn’t I recollect most of these advertisements in the first question? It is because the first question lacked a context.

This shows that a television advertisement on its own is generally of not much use. But if you provide a context to the consumers, then the television advertisements will help the consumers connect the brand with the context. Consumers going to the shop will subconsciously recognize the brand that they’ve watched it on television.  This means if you are investing in television advertisements, you have to provide sufficient contextual support such as in-shop presence, BTL, distribution etc.

Until now, we spoke about two things: Advertising your product on television and creating a context offline. This helps the consumers connect the brand with the context. But what actually helps the consumer receive your communication in the first place.

To communicate something you need to first command the recipient’s attention

Consumers, as human-beings, switch on and off in various situations based on different factors. One of the key factors that make the consumers decide to switch on or off is Relevance.  A consumer who is about to buy a car will suddenly switch on (becomes attentive) while watching an advertisement of a car. The same consumer 2 years back might be passive and switched off to advertisements of cars.

Also, anything different from routine generally catches the attention of people. For example, the Flipkart advertisement having elderly looking kids. Another example is the use of celebrities. Because consumers become attentive when they look at celebrities, usage of celebrities and other unique elements commands attention.

I’ve put celebrities and unique creative elements under one category because they are good in commanding attention. But they are not enough. Only uniqueness in the creative will help consumers remember the advertisement, but consumers will not remember the brand of the advertisement.

To communicate something you should be relevant to the recipient

The presence of unique elements or celebrities doesn’t make a communication relevant. But the problem is relevance is something that has to come from the consumers. I cannot shout in the media that I am relevant to you, hear me! For example, a consumer considering to buy a car finds the advertisements of cars relevant. Does this mean that to communicate to a target audience I have to wait for the consumers to feel my category relevant to them? No, in such cases you have to build category relevance to the consumers. You have to give them reasons why they have to use the category.

But, how does one build relevance? Relevance is a recurring theme. You build relevance to a category by relating the category to what is relevant to the target audience. For example, if you want to communicate something on conditioners, you have to make consumers relevant to the category. But the category is very nascent and consumers don’t feel a relevance to the category. So, in such cases you build relevance for conditioners by understanding what is relevant (1-level below) to the prospective buyers of the conditioners and connecting that (1 level below relevance) with the category. So, you come up with elements like softened hair, strong roots, etc which are relevant to the consumer and connect that to the category. This is building category relevance for effective communication. The recent TVCs on Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief is also an example of the category relevance.

But what if the category is already a well penetrated category like shampoos or toilet soaps? As the category is already relevant, all brands clutter the consumer confusing him and he switches off to the category. This is where brand relevance comes into play. This means you have to make the consumer feel relevant, not by talking about the category, but by talking about the brand. Here you don’t talk about the category elements like softened hair, but you try to build relevance by distinguishing your brand such as natural, herbal, seeds of some plant etc. You have to give reasons to buy your brand and make your brand relevant. This is the true test of marketers on how well they can create the brand relevance – the brand associations, the aura of the brand, brand values, brand differentiation etc. Consumers have to feel a specific brand in the category relevant to them.

Most television advertisements today fail because they are not relevant to the audience and they failed to build relevance.  The media is so cluttered today that advertisers struggle to draw attention first, and the very few that draw attention fail in being relevant to the target audience. So, television advertisements are an effective tool to build brand awareness and recognition. But it is a difficult task to build brand relevance using TVCs, because consumers are not ready (and too much clutter) to receive the differentiating factors that should make this brand relevant to them.

In my next post, I will write about how to build effective relevance and how we can connect relevance with the consumer decision making process.

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