The Association Problem: When Consumers Like Your Ad But Forget Your Brand

The Association Problem: When Consumers Like Your Ad But Forget Your Brand

“I like that car ad where the wife is an astronaut and has to unlock her husband’s car from space,” she said, referring to a Hyundai TV spot. If consumers can’t remember which car company made that funny astronaut ad, that’s an issue. Brand association isn’t just a problem with TV commercials. According to a recent study by Infolinks, only 14 percent of participants could remember the company associated with the last display ad they saw. At the same time, brands don’t want to overwhelm their audience with overt promotion. Fifty-nine percent of participants also said that after seeing branded content, they were likely to seek out more content from that brand in the future. Take Cabot Cheese as an example. As Forbes CRO Mark Howard told Adweek, “Branded content educates audiences on topics in which brands have a domain expertise, allowing our brands to truly connect in a consumer-centric way.” In order to make sure your audience remembers you, the first step is gaining their trust. “The novelty of branded content has not worn off and it is still effective at driving metrics that marketers truly care about,” said Kara Manatt, the SVP of intelligence solutions and strategy at IPG Media Lab. “But my company’s ad voice is so funny, clever, and unique,” brands may protest.

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A friend and I were recently discussing our favorite TV commercials over drinks because that’s just how cool we are. “I like that car ad where the wife is an astronaut and has to unlock her husband’s car from space,” she said, referring to a Hyundai TV spot. While the narrative had drawn her in, my friend had no idea what brand of car she was supposed to buy after watching it.

I’ve experienced this brand association problem plenty of times myself. A touching ad that ran during the Olympics called “Thank you, Mom” told the stories of mothers supporting their children’s athletic aspirations as the rest of the world was telling them they’d never be able to make it. It stayed in my head for weeks, but had someone asked who was behind the commercial, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them that it was for Proctor and Gamble. It’s good when brands pay attention to emotional narratives in their campaigns, but there still needs to be a natural fit. If consumers can’t remember which car company made that funny astronaut ad, that’s an issue.

Brand association isn’t just a problem with TV commercials. According to a recent study by Infolinks, only 14 percent of participants could remember the company associated with the last display ad they saw. At the same time, brands don’t want to overwhelm their audience with overt promotion. If the name “Hyundai” constantly flashed up on the screen during the spot, the intrusion would distract us from the powerful narrative.

So what’s the solution? Good content marketing. A recent report by Forbes and IPG Media Lab found that consumers are twice as likely to remember branded content—a blog post, video, or other branded experience—than display ads, like a banner image on a website or those sponsored blurbs on the…

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