Everyone wants to build a big brand (go big or go home, right?), but few marketers actually manage to do it.
For every McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Apple, there are millions of smaller startups and brands that pass through the murky waters of fame and fortune before silently sinking into obscurity.
Building a big brand is hard. Really hard. But not impossible.
So what’s the secret? What are big brands doing that you aren’t?
The dirty secret of being a big brand
Big brands understand something you probably don’t: that most people are future customers.
Most of the customers you will gain in the lifetime of your business currently don’t know you exist, and aren’t aware that the product or service you’re selling is something they need.
Big brands really get this, and grow by chasing both current and future customers at the same time.
They reach everyone by advertising on mass media channels like TV and Print, which are still the most profitable forms of advertising.
This means that big brands profitably convert existing demand today while building a pipeline of future customers for tomorrow.
This also gives big brands a huge unfair advantage, because mass-media advertising is really, really expensive.
So what do most smaller brands do?
They make an often fatal mistake…
The CAC Valley of Death
Because they don’t have millions to spend, most businesses double down on performance marketing—ads where the purchaser doesn’t pay unless there’s a measurable result.
This has fueled the rise of digital advertising giants like Facebook, Google, and countless other networks that promise marketers a better bang for their buck.
On the surface, their claims make sense.
Performance ads are:
- Affordable: Lower advertising costs compared to traditional mass media
- Targeted: Ads are only shown to potential customers or specific audiences
- Measurable: You see exactly what’s working (and what’s not) in real-time
But there’s a big problem with performance marketing…
It can never build a big brand.
Performance marketing has a fatal flaw that’s baked into its core: bidding.
All performance ads work on an auction-based system. You bid on keywords, clicks, or impressions against everyone else, and whoever bids the most wins.
That means these ads “touch” the consumer at the point of need, when they actively declare an interest in something.
Because the consumer’s interest is declared publicly, competition at that moment is at its most intense. The result is that the cost of attracting an audience at that point is at its maximum (avg. CPC is $5–10).
Funneling your entire media budget through a bidding process also increases your exposure to external factors outside of your control:
- Bid inflation via competitors
- Bid inflation via structural changes (e.g., Google switches to automated bidding)
- Other ad campaigns in market that reduce the performance of yours
Since the economics of performance marketing can quickly become unsustainable, it’s very hard to rapidly scale a brand using this technique alone.
That means performance marketing can only reach the small number of people actively shopping at any given time, and you end up fighting over a small number of active shoppers like rats in a barrel.
This competition leads to skyrocketing advertising costs.
Once current demand is exhausted, performance marketing traps you in spiraling acquisition costs that quickly become unsustainable.
And you get trapped in the CAC Valley of Death.
In other words, the auction system forces performance marketing to deliver short-term results at the expense of future growth.
This is why so many companies cannot scale profitably.
Outsmarting the competition
So… what can smaller brands do?
How do you convert today and create demand for tomorrow if you can’t afford mass media?
To answer that question, download our full report, How to build a big brand on a small budget, to learn how to fight back against the big brand bullies and start scaling profitably.
Topics covered include:
- The secret to building a big brand
- Why most brands fail to grow
- How to get TV/mass-media results on a digital-only budget
- How to supercharge your marketing campaigns for the best ROI
Click here to download the report.
Ian Barnard is the Strategy Director at Creative Business Company, a whitespace marketing agency that helps challenger brands get famous.
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