Every marketer has faced the dilemma of how exactly to allocate the money intended for the advertising budget. How to find the optimum balance between two items of expenditure – whether to invest more in the (better-quality, more convincing, more appealing) copy, or increase the volume, to make sure that the message sinks in?

The bigger the advertising volume, the larger the sales – is that always the case?

To find out the answer, ads for packaged commodities have been tested. A copy that has failed to generate the anticipated sales is shown to the target group in different volumes. The aim of the test is to determine if the advertising volume affects sales. Or more precisely, is it true that the more the advertising volume is increased, the bigger the improvement in sales?

The concise answer is that there is no such unequivocal relation. If the sales don’t improve after the ad is aired, the problem lies somewhere else and a more vigorous pounding won’t save the day. Even if the advertising volume is tripled, there is no increased likelihood of an improved sales volume.

Perhaps, then, the sales depend on the competitors’ advertising volume and whether or not it can be surpassed? Comparison with the competitors has not indicated such a connection either. Increased advertising volume is not predictive of improved sales. Advertising is important, of course, but only to a certain extent. The fulfillment of sales goals cannot be guaranteed with an increased volume; rather, a correction needs to be made somewhere else – in brand or copy strategy, media strategy, of the product category in general.

Small brands need volume

However, it can work in one exceptional case. Namely, with new, unfamiliar products that need to enter the consumers’ field of vision. These are small new brands that are characterized by a lower-than-average (assisted and spontaneous) profile and weak brand image. As long as they are nobodies to the consumer, a loud media entrance will certainly improve their current poor sales.

Another feature of these brands is their goal to increase penetration (i.e. the number of people who buy the brand’s product at least once). This makes sense, as a small consumer base is typical of new small brands of little renown. Accordingly, reliable advertising tests confirm from several different perspectives that the only ones who can benefit from an increased advertising volume are brands that are little known to the consumers.

More penetration for the small, higher purchase frequency for the big

Unlike large brands, a small brand can occupy a new market by means of advertising. Small, little-known brands aim to increase consumer penetration and attract new clients, whereas a major brand can no longer accomplish that. Its penetration ceiling has already been met.

A big brand benefits the most from advertising if it manages to increase purchase frequency among the existing loyal users. Or if it maintains its current market share, even if the sales volume does not increase substantially. (Let this be of solace to all marketers of major packaged food and commodity brands who have had to witness stagnation in penetration numbers, although their marketing activities have been nothing short of exemplary.)

The advertising techniques and expectations of big and small brands should differ accordingly. A small brand can target its current non-consumers and convince them to prefer this particular brand over the competitors. A major brand, on the other hand, should appeal to all of its existing users and help them find reasons to buy this brand more often.

Don’t compromise on the copy to increase advertising volume

Studies have shown that the content of the copy is even more important for new and little-known brands than it is to major ones. First impressions matter also in the world of brands, determining whether or not there will be subsequent sales. This is paradoxical, because although small brands usually have a very narrow marketing budget, they in particular should invest equally in the copy and in spreading it as widely as possible.

With major brands, on the other hand, the question cannot even arise. It makes sense to invest in a good-quality copy right away; otherwise the flaws of the copy will be impeding the attainment of the brand’s goals during the entire airing period. These flaws cannot be compensated with an increased volume.

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