Whilst the endeavours of Les Binet and Peter Field have helped the industry make huge strides in how it looks at advertising effectiveness, and particularly the importance of long-term brand building, the industry’s unquestioning acceptance of their suggested 60/40 “brand” / “activation” marketing budget split makes me nervous.

Although I don’t have the raw data from an IPA meta study to draw upon, I do have 25 years of experience. That gives me 48,000 hours of practice and experience in media planning – way in excess of Gladwell’s 10,000 hours required to get close to high competence. My 48,000 hours tell me that every brand, every category, every catchment, every customer and every prospect is different. Every brand has its own attributes, its own strengths, its own weakness, its own competitor set, its own distribution challenges, its own price point and its own technological challenges. Most importantly, every brand is considered and purchased by consumers based on a unique mix of emotional and rational factors. In short every brand has its own unique DNA.

This uniqueness means that every brand should be treated as an individual. Like a doctor treating a patient – where understanding individuality is critical to treatment success.

And that’s why a blanket rule like 60 / 40 makes me nervous. Sometimes the brand’s objectives – defence against newly emerging competitors or launching a new product – may require a 100% brand development solution. Sometimes a brand may need to improve cash flows by finding the quickest way to generate the most short term sales conversions. In all cases, the correct split between brand and activation will be somewhere on Binet and Field’s spectrum but it’s unlikely that the 60 / 40 split is always going to be the right answer.

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