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Brad VanAuken

Brad VanAuken is The Blake Project’s Chief Brand Strategist. He brings an unequalled level of expertise in branding to his clients, leading them in the collaborative discovery process that results in strong brands. Brad gained his experience as director of brand management and marketing for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and as vice president of marketing for Element K, a leading e-learning company.

Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Does White Space Increase Advertising Effectiveness?



Regular readers of Branding Strategy Insider know we welcome and answer marketing questions of all types. Today, Qaid, a marketer from London, Ontario, Canada asks…

“Brad, I read your blog post regarding the increased effectiveness of ads and headlines with greater white space. Are there any statistics, surveys, or resources I could look at to support this? I'm not questioning what it says, I'd just like to get all the facts before using that sort of information. Thanks."

Qaid, I'm happy to help. My evidence is based upon intuition (less is more — the less clutter, the more powerfully a message breaks through) and years of personal experience.

As one example, when I led brand management at Hallmark in the mid-1990s we ran "brand insistence" advertising that encouraged people to flip greeting cards over to see what brands they were. The ads implied that the card recipients were likely to flip the cards over to make sure they were Hallmark branded cards. The Hallmark logo is roughly centered on the back of each Hallmark branded greeting card with lots of white space surrounding it. Print was an important component of the campaign. For the print portion of the campaign, the ad was a full page back cover ad. The creative consisted of a black and white Hallmark logo placed on an all-white background similar to the way it would appear on the back of a greeting card with a statement in very small print at the bottom of the ad linking the Hallmark brand insistence message to the specific publication on which it was placed in a clever way. This had been one of the least cluttered full page magazine ads used by any advertiser to that time. The print component of the campaign was highly successful, resulting in many magazines contacting us requesting that we advertise with them in this way.

Another way that we tested the "white space" concept was to place the same advertising in two different outdoor advertising contexts: one in which there was little to no other outdoor advertising surrounding it and one in which the outdoor advertising environment was highly cluttered. Adjusting for other factors, the ads placed in the less cluttered contexts had a higher recall rate in general.

While this is not quantitative, I hope it helps.

Have a question related to branding? Just Ask…

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Ad Copy Testing Defined


Today we're taking a marketing research question from James, a VP of Marketing in Dallas, Texas. He asks…

"Please define Ad Copy Testing and other relevant measures for advertising performance."

James, Thanks for asking. As you likely know, this has been a perennially controversial area of marketing research. The importance and effectiveness of and the most productive approaches to copy testing have been much debated over time. For instance, many have questioned the usefulness of advertising recall as a measure. Current methodologies are fraught with issues. I am providing a simple summary of a fairly comprehensive approach to this below, however, the chosen approach will vary greatly depending on what specifically is to be tested.

More sophisticated approaches have been used (galvanic skin response, MRI, etc.), however these tend to be quite expensive. People have also used pulse and heart rate, facial expression and other physiological indicators of mental states as measures of advertising effectiveness. Some research orgnizations like Millward Brown and Ipsos-ASI will argue the importance of validated predictive metrics and normative databases in this area of research because they have these.

Ad Copy Testing
More aptly named pre-testing, copy testing is the study of advertising (print, TV, radio, billboards, Internet, etc.) prior to launching it. It predicts how effectively an ad will perform, based on the analysis of feedback gathered from the target audience. Each test will either qualify the ad as strong enough to meet company action standards for airing or identify opportunities to improve the performance of the ad through editing.

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Brad VanAuken Marketing

Testing Marketing Competence


It has been my experience that "marketers" are quite varied in their ability – from "clueless" to "brilliant." The problem is that many people can't tell the difference between these two extreme ends of the continuum. Here is a list of questions that should help you sort the wheat from the chaff. Ask these of the person in question. His or her answers should help you make up your mind where he or she belongs on the scale of marketing competency.

·Who is your primary target audience and why?

·What are the most efficient media and other vehicles to reach this audience?

·What is the best way to segment this market?

·What is your brand's top-of-mind unaided awareness among its primary audience?

·What is your brand's primary point of difference? Explain why it is compelling to your brand's target audiences.

·Why will your target audiences choose your brand over competitive brands?

·What are your brands "proof points" or "reasons to believe"?

·Please list or articulate your marketing strategies and tactics in decreasing order of effectiveness? That is, which would you invest in first, second, third, etc.?

·How much do you spend on PR as a percentage of paid media spend?

·Describe some of the insights that you have gained from research about your target audiences. What are their hopes, fears, anxieties, attitudes and values? Are there any insights that lead to a "hook" or "way in" to the target audience?

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Brad VanAuken Brand Identity

The Power of Brand Consistency


“We thought we’d update the logo a little.” “It’s not a new tagline. It’s just a catchy phrase that we are using instead of the tagline.” “We thought the icon would make a great decorative element.” “We are thinking about creating a new name for the organization.” “We developed a new product so we created a new brand for it.” “We created a different tagline for each audience. Pretty clever, huh?” “We were getting so tired of the old logo.” “It’s more fun to present the brand in a wide variety of colors.” “There was no room for the icon so we left it off.” “This is a funky stylized version of the logo targeted at younger audiences.”

What is it about marketers that cause them to want to create something new all of the time? I have been told that I am a creative, out-of-the-box thinker, but when it comes to brand identity, I learned a long time ago that consistency is the secret to success.  With enough repetition, people encode the brands identity (usually not as read words but as the recognized look, shape and feel) in their brains, preferably linked to things that matter to them. If you mess with the overall look and feel of the brand, these linkages and associations are likely to break down.

So, how does one combat these tendencies? In the following ways…

·         Develop a sound brand strategy and identity from the start

·         Base them on deep customer insight

·         Carefully think through your brand’s architecture and identity system, anticipating as many new products, services, media and other applications as possible

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?Branding Bag? Brad VanAuken

Obama, McCain: Political Brand Analysis Results


Brands are positioned in the minds of their target audiences. While brand managers (in this case, political strategists) can work hard to influence how those brands (theirs and their competitor’s) are perceived, ultimately brands are what the target audiences think they are. The most important benefits for a brand to “own” are those that are extremely compelling to their target audiences, especially if the brand in question (in this case, a presidential candidate) can uniquely own those benefits. With this in mind, we created a survey to understand what was most important to American citizens when selecting a president. We then asked how well John McCain and Barack Obama delivered against these benefits. By comparing the most compelling benefits to the perception of each presidential candidate we are able to determine who is best positioned to be elected president.

Between October 28 and October 31, we surveyed readers here on Branding Strategy Insider regarding the McCain and Obama brands. 100 people responded to the survey. Those people represent 29 states and DC, with a heavier mix from NY, CA and FL. 59.6% were male, while 40.4% were female. Ages ranged from 18 years old to 74 years old. 61.2% were married. The average household income skewed high. The mode was $100,000-$149,999. Political party registration was as follows: 35.4% Democratic, 21.2% Republican, 21.2% none, 18.2% Independent, 4% other. Given the respondent mix and the ending sample size, the data is directional but not projectable.

We explored 27 personality attributes and 35 platform issues. The personality attributes included those most often associated with strong brands (trustworthy, reliable, etc.) and those most often used by the candidates in describing themselves and each other. The 35 platform issues were taken from the platforms of the five largest political parties.

We first wanted to understand which personality attributes and platform issues were the most desired in selecting a president. They are as follows: (Please note: you can click to enlarge all tables)
ScreenHunter_01 Nov. 03 05.43

Related to that, we wanted to understand the least desirable attributes. They are as follows:

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