The Long-Term Impact of Advertising Is a Double Bonus

The Long-Term Impact of Advertising Is a Double Bonus
Photo by Jonathan Klok / Unsplash

Have you ever wondered when you last saw a Coke or Apple ad on TV? If you're like most of us, swapping the traditional TV for digital screens, you might not remember. But isn't it curious how ads from two decades ago still pop up in our mental replay? Think about that ad. Yes, you know the one. Maybe it is this one or this one?

For my expert audience, these ads probably resurfaced recently on social media, shared in praise of the eternal creativity of their ad agency. But here's the catch: not just the industry insiders remember them. These ads stick with everyone.

Every single time your brand shows on a TV screen, pops up on YouTube, or penetrates social feeds, it's not just passing by. It's building memory structures. And it doesn't matter if your audience can't recall it a week later. What matters is the subtle yet powerful build-up of brand salience. Sometimes, this memory nudges consumers in the most unexpected moments, prompting them to snap your product off the shelf. That, my friends, is the magic of advertising impact.

But as an industry, we've become fixated on this immediate gratification. We're missing the bigger benefit of advertising. The real game-changer? The long-term impact of advertising.

Let’s get one thing straight first. There is no long-term sales effect if your advertising is bad in the short term. The concept of wear-in is a myth. It's crucial, therefore, to manage your creative choices wisely, measuring and acting on short-term impacts. But don't stop there.

The long-term can be measured; it’s not easy. If you put the effort in, you might end up with an effect multiplier that explains the business impact in the long term. Some companies prioritize measuring the short-term and use multipliers to estimate the long-term business impact. Some have the right analytics to measure the long-term value of customers. Some hide behind other softer metrics to show impact in marketing jargon. Guess who's right? All?

The role of advertising is to drive business impact now and tomorrow and to build long-term brand value or equity. But, compared to measuring sales, measuring long-term equity is trickier. Advertising is one of the many levers in your brand's arsenal. Advertising jostles with product flavor, packaging design, shelf presence, price-point appeal, social buzz, sponsorships, and the power of word-of-mouth are all driving to lift your brand's equity metrics. But how do you deconstruct the impact over multiple years?

So, when you notice a surge in brand awareness or another equity KPI, pinning it solely on advertising from 2 years ago might be a stretch.

The takeaway? Try, really try hard to measure or estimate the long-term impact of advertising on sales. It's challenging to measure, but ignoring it is not an option—especially when the CFO comes knocking.