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CARTOON 1 of 5

This is the first in a series of five cartoons created especially for us by Tom Fishburne (aka The Marketoonist).

CARTOON 1 of 5

This is the first in a series of five cartoons created especially for us by Tom Fishburne (aka The Marketoonist).

Each cartoon visualises a key issue facing marketing briefs as identified by our research. The purpose of each cartoon is to put the topic of poor briefs on the table and into conversations. Outstanding industry superheroes have lent their opinion to the cartoons providing context and sharing insights on how to avoid common pitfalls…



Setting the right campaign objectives is not easy, but we know it is extremely important.
There is always a tension between the desire to focus on a few objectives versus the fear of omitting any of the desired outcomes we seek. As is usually the case, the truth lies
somewhere between the extremes. Effectiveness data is quite clear that too many
objectives are very bad for effectiveness, but so too are no objectives or too few. What
matters is a clear hierarchy of a manageable number of focussed and related objectives. 

In a recent survey of UK marketers, most thought that market share should be the primary objective at the top of the hierarchy. But in fact, the effectiveness data, as well as a number of academic studies, strongly argue against this. The trouble with putting share or sales at the top of the hierarchy is that it can encourage unprofitable tactics (such as excessive price promotion). The share target may well be achieved but too often at considerable cost to profitability. That is why academic studies have failed to find a reliable link between share growth and profit growth, something that is echoed in effectiveness data; and it is profit growth that ultimately matters to companies. So, undoubtedly at the top of the hierarchy must be a profit target, followed by a subsidiary business target that will deliver this (perhaps a market share or pricing target or both); this might be underpinned by distribution or innovation objectives that will help deliver this and finally by communications objectives that will support it (perhaps to reposition or premiumise the brand, raise its salience or broaden its appeal and so on). 

So, a campaign might get away with as few as four or five related objectives (e.g. profit, share, distribution and salience), but there may be a few more to add. But no more than a few I would strongly suggest, and they should be consistent with the other objectives, not merely additional to them. If they are not consistent, then they belong in another brief for another campaign, another day.

Let’s remember Michael Porter’s wise advice that the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.

Peter spent 15 years as a strategic planner in advertising and has been a marketing consultant for the last 25 years. He has a global reputation as an effectiveness expert and communicator and writes, speaks and consults on this topic regularly around the world. Effectiveness case study analysis underpins much of his work, which includes a number of important marketing and advertising texts: Marketing in the Era of Accountability, The Long & The Short of it, Media in Focus, The Crisis in Creative Effectiveness, The 5 Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing, Advertising in Recession – Long, Short or Dark?, The Alchemy of Effectiveness, To ESOV and Beyond and chapters in Eat Your Greens, The Effectiveness Code and the Sage Handbook of Advertising.




The BetterBriefs project provides some sobering statistics.

More than half the surveyed ‘creative agencies’ felt that the briefs they receive do not have clear objectives. We believe this is often because managers aren’t aligned on what truly drives the business so that briefs end up as a portmanteau of convoluted ‘buck shot’ requirements which at best obscure the job to be done and often miss it entirely.
It doesn’t have to be this way.

If we can agree that keeping it simple and doing so consistently is good, why is this so hard?

Growth strategy can be simplified to how to drive consumer/end-user choice to your brand and get paid appropriately for your product or service. More people paying the same or more for that product or service. At its simplest, the evidence is clear on the main goal. To quote Andrew Ehrenberg, the pioneer of evidence-based marketing science:

Of the thousand and one variables which might affect buyer behaviour, it is found that nine hundred and ninety-nine usually do not matter. Many aspects of buyer behaviour can be predicted simply from the penetration.”

To grow your brand, drive penetration, otherwise known as recruitment, over anything else - the much-coveted loyalty will come as a bonus. This sounds simple because it is, but it is the most effective strategy.
What does this mean for our brand-building plans and briefs to partners in practical terms? Ehrenberg liked ordinary words and sometimes talked about brands needing to be well-known, be easy to find and buy and be thought worth it – the first two parts of this recipe for growth developed and characterised by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute as building mental and physical availability. 

To focus here on being well-known/Mental Availability, Ehrenberg recognised that advertising reminds far more than it will ever persuade. He also suggested we should see the task we call advertising as creative publicity. 

Most marketing will be about maintaining your rightful place in peoples’ minds, on store shelves, contact lists and the web. Which is why a good brief should explicitly state its objective is to increase the brand’s customer base by driving one or more contributing factors. These are:

  • Reaching the right people (e.g. 80% of the market within the next quarter), 
  • saying the right things (e.g. to have 25% of the market associating us with X), and
  • ensuring people will remember who did the talking (e.g. increasing the percentage of correct ad recall by 25%)

Being easy to buy and thought worth it fall outside the brief for this commentary but will also need to have a clear link to our ultimate objective: selling to more customers, for more. To improve the effectiveness of our briefs, we should start with penetration, more customers and focus single-mindedly on the levers that drive it sustainably for the longer term. 

Aristotle, William of Occam and Goethe were right, less is more, simplest is best. Our mark, our brand will thrive as a result.

Wiemer is a partner at The Commercial Works, a consulting firm focused on Marketing, Selling and the Path to Profitable Growth. He has delivered customised programmes designed to stimulate evidence-based development for implementation for more than 15 years to clients in Europe, Australia and North America. He is also the curator of Eat Your Greens: Fact-Based Thinking to Improve Your Brand’s Health.