Copy the ads of larger competitors
Small brands should use ad creatives that are similar to those of larger competitors and consistently repeat them. Large brands should change up their creatives often.
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When you are a new brand - and few people know it - it takes a while for your ads to build recognition and become effective at driving sales.
You need to:
Establish yourself as part of a certain product category, so that people start to remember you
Repeat until you become one of the top-of-mind brands of your target customers
Today’s study found a way to accelerate that.
The answer? Don’t differentiate your ad creatives as much as you think you should.
P.S.: When designing ad creatives, remember to place rational messages in the upper part (e.g. learn), and messages that appeal to emotions in the lower part (e.g. enjoy).
Previous insight: Why you should offer free returns (Correction: last week’s insight contained a typo that said that customers who paid for returns “spent 75% to 150% less”. The correct figure was “spent 75% to 100% less”. This has been updated)
Small brands should copy large brand creatives and be consistent
Channels: Ads | Brand strategy
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: May 2022
If your brand is new or small, use ad creatives that are similar to those of better known competitors in your product category. Don’t change your ad creatives often, keep them consistent and repeat them over and over.
It will be easier and cheaper to build your brand and increase your sales.
If your brand is large and well known, it doesn’t matter whether your ad creatives are similar or very different from your competitors. But you must change up your creatives often to surprise and stand out.
Ad creatives can be more or less similar to those of competitors in the same product category (e.g. informative pharmaceutical ads, fun family-focused cereals ads) and change often (e.g. every few months) or rarely (e.g. several quarters).
This study analyzed the impact on sales of 247 TV ads from 33 brands over a period of 4 years. They found that:
Similar ads to competitors benefit small brands, both in the short-term and long-term
Consistent ads - that don’t change often - benefit small brands in the long-term, but hurt large brands
🧠 Why it works
Advertising works by building memory connections about brands in our minds, so we recall them later.
Our memories tend to store information about small, less-known brands differently from that of large, well-known brands.
New or small brands tend to be part of our common-knowledge memory structures. For example, the memory that a brand is part of a certain product category (e.g. “I think Acme Inc. is a makeup brand”).
Larger brands (e.g. “BMW”) tend to have built their own space in our memory so we remember them better (e.g. “BMW makes luxury sporty cars”). This is part of the advantages large brands have through the double jeopardy law.
So small brands benefit from rapidly establishing themselves as part of a product category in our minds - by being similar to competitors in that space.
Then, repetition of the same or similar ads gives a chance to small brands to create their own space in our memory and become established brands.
On the other hand, when large brands that we already know about keep repeating the same ads, we get more easily bored and they become less effective.
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The study focused on TV ads and only on brands that advertise regularly (at least 20% of the time). However, the same principles should apply in other channels too.
The analysis was done on consumer packaged goods: chocolate bars, yogurt, razors, shampoo, shower gel, and household detergents. The effect may work differently on less frequently bought products.
🏢 Companies using this
In a survey of marketing and brand managers, most seemed aware that smaller brands should be more consistent (e.g. “Younger brands need to build up a brand first, and so be more consistent”), although some thought that large brands should stay consistent too - which does not seem to be the case.
⚡ Steps to implement
If your brand is small:
Try to establish yourself in the mind of people by using similar ad creatives to those of your larger competitors
Don’t bother frequently changing your ad creatives. Instead, spend that budget on higher ad frequency and reach
If your brand is large, make sure you regularly change up your ad creatives so that your ads stay effective and don’t bore people.
Note: similar ad creatives doesn’t mean your message (what differentiates your product) should also be the same. Product differentiation is crucial to successful marketing.
🔍 Study type
Market observation (analysis of 247 TV ads in Germany from 33 brands in 6 consumer packaged goods categories between March 2010 and December 2013)
Consistency and Commonality in Advertising Content: Helping or Hurting?. International Journal of Research in Marketing (May 2022).
Maren Becker. ESCP Business School
Maarten Gijsenberg. University of Groningen
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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