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Charm your customers if you want to grow

by Nigel Hollis | January 16, 2013

My dad always ascribes any business success I may have enjoyed to my “sleazy charm.” Thanks, Dad. I would like to think there might be other factors at play, but the ability to charm can play an important role in business relationships. But until now I had not really thought of advertising as “charming” people.

Les Binet refers to the need for brands to be charming in the course of this presentation given at Thinkbox’s event, “Advertising Effectiveness: the long and the short of it.” 

The video is well worth viewing in its entirety, since it reviews an important extension to the work that Binet and Peter Fields have conducted using IPA Award entry case studies. Many of their conclusions are entirely consistent with the viewpoint put forward by Millward Brown over the years. 

Binet and Fields’ past work showed that Excess Share of Voice (ESOV), that is a brand’s current yearly share of voice minus its current share of market, is related to future market share growth. This is a finding that we have replicated at Millward Brown using client share data and also with attitudinal data from BrandZ. Intriguingly, the degree to which market share improves in response to ESOV seems pretty consistent between the different studies, although there are differences by product category and brand size. As my colleague, Jorge Alagón suggests, this implies the existence of an empirical generalization: over investing in media pays off next year at a predictable rate depending on category and brand size.

The new analysis is particularly exciting because it now extends the previous analysis to look at longer-term effects. Previously, Binet and Fields had found that advertising designed to evoke an emotional response was most likely to produce strong profit effects. In this analysis, which looks over a longer time frame, they find that advertising designed to evoke only an emotional response is twice as likely to produce large profit effects over a three year time frame as any other form of advertising. While the definition of the word “emotional” remains open to interpretation, our research would support the finding that emotionally engaging advertising does create stronger long-term sales effects. 

Binet credits the longer and broader effects of emotional advertising to its priming or halo effect, and specifically refers to research conducted on an ad for Hovis (a UK bread brand) that found people willing to endorse the brand on several different and potentially contradictory statements, e.g. “modern” and “traditional.” He goes on to conclude:

You charm people and they are much more willing to believe good things about the brand.

This is entirely consistent with the Admap article by Millward Brown’s Dom Twose and Polly Wyn Jones. However, I don’t remember anyone talking about an ad’s ability to charm people before but the connotations seem entirely appropriate. Truly memorable advertising is attractive, appealing and magnetic. It lures us to like the advertised brand so that when we think about the brand at a later date we are primed to feel positive about it. But creative advertising does more than just charm, as Dom points out in his Point of View from last year. Provided it is focused on the brand, creativity can help engage attention, ensure memorability and evoke curiosity and anticipation.  

So do you think “charm” is a good word to use when describing successful advertising? And what ads do you find charming? Please share your thoughts. 


Leave a comment
  1. Nigel, January 24, 2013
    Hi Peter, thanks for the comment. I have to admit that I could have sworn that was what your chart showed but I stand corrected. Temporary fix implemented. Cheers, Nigel
  2. Peter Field, January 24, 2013
    Nigel thanks for your  kind words and support for Les' and my presentation about long-term and short-term campaign effects. We are aware that many in marketing have found it difficult to accept our findings in the past about the greater effectiveness of emotional campaigns. We hope this presentation and the forthcoming publication of the full findings will provide an explanation for how those who judge success over the short term, might indeed find rational campaigns more effective - and alert them to the long-term dangers of judging success over the short term.
    Could I just correct a typo in your blog? We have never said that "advertising designed to evoke both a rational and emotional response was most likely to produce strong profit effects" - except in a limited number of categories such as retail. We have always argued the primacy of emotional responses in profit growth - and this is still our argument over the long term.
    I very much hope that the short/long term debate rumbles on for a long time as there is a lot of important learning to be developed - thanks again for helping to lead the debate.
  3. Nigel, January 17, 2013
    Thanks for the comments.
    Rob, I believe your last sentence is correct. This is a useful guideline and no guarantee of share growth. I have been looking at some category specific relationships between ESOV and share change and find that brands with stronger consideration tend to out perform the relationship and weak ones under perform. Add to that the fact that these analyses often don't take copy quality into effect and I am afraid there is plenty of room for widely varying results.
    Neeraj and Ziarot, I love the idea of a smile being the outcome of a well executed creative work. And, of course, Link with facial coding will tell you whether and exactly when people do smile!
  4. Ziarot, January 17, 2013
    A creative advertising, which is well executed has the power to have "charming" effect on the customers. So can we relate Charm with creative advertising, where charm is the outcome of a well executed creative work?
  5. Neeraj Garg, January 17, 2013

    Hi Nigel,

    I read your article and somehow in agreement that " charm" encapsulates everything we marketers want in an ad.However the question is how will you determine whether your ad has charmed consumer. " Charm" does not have relevance only for brands, but I feel it has same connotation in personal life. If you want to grow in an organisation, charm people around you. But the question is how would you know that. Being an Indian working in a cut-throat American culture, sometimes I discharm people and then I realize what could have happened if I would have charmed them. I think " A SMILE" from your customer at the end of the ad is the signal that she has been charmed.

    Although I have figured out the meaning of charm in my personal life, now onwards I will use this one in my ad brief for agency.
    Very soon Charm will become a celebrity like " Engagement,Attention , AI etc"


  6. Rob V, January 17, 2013
    Sorry for not answering the questions you pose in conclusion but I want to pick up on the ESOV point.

    I think the analysis behind this reveals and interesting historical relationship but there can be some risks in assuming this is a simple, dependable mechanism.

    One advertiser instituted this in their media investments by pegging their TV investment to not less than 3x their main competitor in the belief that due to this scientific finding they would guarantee share growth. Already in a market leading position, alas the sales didn't oblige.

    This may be a reductio ad absurdum of what is otherwise a helpful guideline but is also a learning on how to apply interesting insights into future stategy.

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