Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2022

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Building brand and communications strategies to drive scaleup growth

Louise Temperley is General Manager, Wavemaker Select:

Moving from startup to scaleup is a pivotal stage and one with numerous brand and communication challenges. A business is evolving its capabilities, building its brand, identifying and trying to reach new audiences across new channels while also having to prove to investors that every decision being taken is delivering growth. Here are the main misconceptions that can hold back success.

“Performance media is a sales driver, brand-building is a nice-to-have”

It’s a common misconception that there are brand-building and sales-driving media channels. In reality, all media channels are capable of both.  Scaleups mustn’t fall prey to this siloed way of thinking; it can lead them to underestimate media channels that can drive growth in the short term. 

For example, Thinkbox’s Demand Generator research (a collaboration between Wavemaker, Mediacom and Gain Theory) shows that television, a channel often associated as a long-term brand-building medium, is the second most effective channel for driving sales within a two-week payback window. Equally, generic pay per click (PPC), often associated with short-term acquisition, has a long-term multiplier effect comparable to channels such as print and out-of-home or outdoor advertising. 

This is why developing a nuanced understanding of channel role and channel mix is so important to scaleups, particularly as media channels often positively impact each other. Television, for example, can also boost  – on average – the impact of paid social by 31%, direct mail by 20% and generic search by 8%. It’s a case of working out the combination of channels most effective for a scaleup’s business objectives. 

Awareness can grow sales”

Many briefs state “we just need to grow awareness and tell a load more people about our great product” but the challenge facing scaleup brands is more complex. 

We know that higher mental availability – when buyers notice, recognise and/or think of a brand when considering a purchase – translates to stronger business results in both the short and long term. If awareness is about consumers knowing a brand’s name, mental availability is about thinking of the brand in the purchase moment – and who doesn’t want that?

In building mental availability, brands must start by thinking about how the brand can insert creativity into purchase moments. Aperol drives mental availability using its distinctive orange colour in bars, with the umbrella’s menus, coasters, and lighting. It recognises people who choose drinks with their eyes and, when they see the colour orange, they think of Aperol Spritz.

Build an association between the brand and highly recognisable consumption moments to highlight brand relevance. For example, Spotify uses out-of-home advertising to demonstrate how it can soundtrack a consumer’s life. It organises its catalogue around specific moment-themed playlists. Need a BBQ, dinner party or holiday playlist? Spotify has you covered. 

So, as a brand looks to scale its media strategy, it must ensure that it also considers what its creative is doing and how it relates and works with chosen channels. 

“Research that exists applies to you”

Most industry research is based on data and case studies centred on mature, established businesses considering long-term brand building and payback. But scaleup businesses, because of their brand’s growth trajectory, can’t afford to wait that long. Therefore, a brand must find new data sources and tools to help set benchmarks for success. 

The most readily available data is a brand’s own, so it should always start with collecting as much of this as possible to build benchmarks for the future. Data underpins any evidence-based approach to performance evaluation, so it must be collected as soon as is feasible, accurately, in sufficient detail and with sufficient quantity for it to be analytically useful. 

A brand should be specific about what data it should collect – rather than ‘I need everything’. Of critical importance are the key performance indicators, such as app downloads, active users, trips, or total revenue. It must be mindful that the main KPI might change over time, so data collection should be future-proofed by collecting what’s important now and what it thinks may become the core business focus as it evolves.

When it comes to external data and research, brands don’t need to subscribe to fancy tools or pay for expensive custom reports. They can use Google search for a wealth of free academia. Social platforms, from Reddit to blogs to Twitter, are another option for feedback on what people are chattering about. 

Publicly available media owner data, case studies, and media industry awards will all help supplement a brand’s knowledge and help ratify trends it may see in its own business data.  If a brand has external agencies working with them, it should ensure that it also leans on them for its learnings and benchmarks.

It can be hard to know what to believe when scaling up. Essentially, brands may need to re-think everything they think they know. The business of scaling up isn’t simple, and the support of a media partner who equally understands a brand’s business and can dispel myths will be imperative to deliver the next stage of growth.

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