What can advertising learn from branding?

Traditionally it has been said that branding starts where the advertising finishes; that somehow branding and advertising are different things. Often, with this mindset, the nearest the ad agency would get to thinking about branding, is placing the client’s logo in the bottom right hand corner of the ad.

The thinking was that it was the product that was important and it was the ad agency’s job to work out what it was about the product that was better than the competitions product and find a memorable way to communicate USP. The branding was just there to make sure the product stood out on the shelf. This has been the way ad agencies have operated for pretty much as long as anyone can remember.

Of course brand agencies have always argued that this way of looking at things was back-to-front!

Playgroup, along with many brand agencies have always argued for building campaigns around a strong and clear brand proposition. Our recent work for St. Pancras station is an example of this approach, where we developed a brand proposition that would appeal to visitors, travellers and shoppers alike.


All under one incredible roof


The goal was to entice people to spend more time in the station; time to appreciate the unique combination of heritage, architecture, shopping, dining and cultural experiences. The proposition references both the beautiful architecture of the Barlow roof, the world’s largest single span structure when it was constructed in 1868 and the carefully curated range of premium shopping and dining available at the station.

The brand proposition is central to all the communications. This approach is very different from running tactical ads promoting events that just follow visual identity and tone of voice guidelines. Every ad has to support the proposition, in this case – ‘All under one incredible roof’.


St. Pancras Campaign


A recent study quantified the value of the worlds leading brands and compared the results for those focusing their advertising on a strong brand proposition against those that didn’t. The clear message is that branding is the driver of brand value and that on its own, advertising (no matter how great) is not enough – it needs to be underpinned by a strong brand proposition.



 Source: Lambie-Nairn, Millward Brown, The Partners and BrandZ.

The data shows the decisive added financial value this approach brings: 168% growth in value where the brand proposition is strong, against just 27% when it’s not (even when the advertising itself it rated highly).

Coca-Cola is another company that has made the switch from product led advertising to a much more brand proposition based approach. Their CMO Marcos De Quinto explains the new approach by saying:

“The new ‘One Brand’ approach will share the equity of Coca-Cola, across all Coca-Cola Trademark products, reinforcing our commitment to offer consumers choice with more clarity,… Coca-Cola had been inspired by Disney to stay true to its brand values and we believe the ‘One Brand’ global strategy will offer Coca-Cola ‘more balance’ moving forward.” Coca-Cola’s new “One Brand” approach, means advertising now includes multiple products united by a single brand proposition.

This approach, is not anti-advertising. Great advertising contributes substantial value to brands, but when combined with a strong brand proposition and identity the data shows that it acts as a multiplier of brand value.


Coke Ad


What I think is obvious is, that because the financial investment needed to define a strong brand proposition and identity is nearly always less than the budget needed to create a strong presence though media spend, that brand owners will get better results when they ensure they have a strong, clearly defined brand proposition from the outset.

Download Playgroup’s brand proposition and visual identity case studies and find out more about how strong brand propositions deliver great results.

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