Push and Pull Branding…and What Excites Us!

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Push and Pull branding are marketing strategies. They do sound like something new in the marketing trade but closer scrutiny will show you that they are not. They used to be known as inbound and outbound marketing strategies and back then, it used to be simple. How simple? You buy a print ad space or a TV spot and advertise your product to consumers. You showcase your products in a store display or a giant billboard to help sell more products to new customers. Instant contact meant instant sales. Each time a consumer comes in contact with your product is an opportunity to sell and is always considered a plus.

With the increase of opportunities to encounter or engage potential consumers, also called “touch points” particularly in social media, the number of ways one can engage, convert and sell to have increased and is still increasing at a rapid rate. Those in marketing has now begun to factor how many times one’s product or services can come into contact with target consumers in social media. How many times can potential consumers see or hear what the company have to say? How many times can potential consumers be reminded that great products or services are waiting for them in the company’s stores? Note that this only takes into consideration the frequency of contact. This does not even put into account the success or conversion rate each “encounter” makes. And this is why is no longer as simple as it once was.

Where does Branding (and perfect logo designs) fall into all of this? Is branding a push strategy or a pull strategy? Why? The best way to get started is to get the terms defined distinctly to prevent confusion.

Push Strategy Defined

Marketing Schools define push marketing (as a strategy that…)

focuses on taking the product to the customer, and putting the product in front of the customer at the point of purchase. This type of marketing strategy hope to minimise the amount of time between a customer discovering a product and buying that product.1

It includes the use of traditional media such as print/radio/TV advertisements, billboards, direct mailers, cold calling and store displays. What makes the push strategy attractive despite the cost is that it produces quick result and instantly communicates your message to customers.2 This is how companies build the kind of “in-your-face” brand awareness. That is the main focus of push strategy – to make the consumer see your product and buy it. Instant demand. The desired result is an immediate sale.

An immediate sale however does not necessarily translate to loyal customers. Loyal customers compared to instant buyers translate to continuing sales. An immediate sale simply means an instant buyer, not a repeat or even a loyal one. And this is where the major disadvantage of the push strategy becomes apparent. The cost of the engagement is quite high but the quality leaves so much to be desired. While an instant sale has been made, instant buyers have to be constantly re-engaged to continue purchases. As Marketing Schools point out,

It is less concerned with branding, and more concerned with creating an instant demand for a new product.3

Pull Strategy Defined

Pull Strategy is the other side of the coin. Instead of the “in-your-face” presentation of your product or services to the consumer, the strategy involves generating enough interest for the consumer to actively seek out the product or service on his own volition to know more and to engage. It utilises various media/social channels to attract the attention of target consumers. The end result desired is not an immediate sale but for the “message” to go “viral” in social media, initiate “sharing or liking” or even independent social behaviour like “word-of-mouth” or personal endorsements among peer groups. Why? The pull strategy hinges on the belief that when enough interest is generated within one’s social circles, those who hear the message will actively seek out the product or service to know more about it.

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The pull strategy attempts to gain the consumer’s attention naturally and “pull” them towards your company. Instead of your brand taking the action by putting an ad or promotion in front of the customer, the goal of pull marketing is for your audience to seek out your brand. This pull tactics succeed when you make it easy and desirable for customers to find you. One of the best ways to do this is to offer great content that informs, entertains, or does some combination of both. The ultimate goal of pull marketing is to make your brand resonate with the customer and build an emotional connection, thereby increasing brand loyalty.4

This assumption about the pull strategy might sound reasonable to most. Recent studies however shows that it is not as simple as “generate enough buzz and sales will soar”. For one, the pull strategy isn’t focused on immediate sale but building a loyal customer base. Two, “generating buzz” has its own credibility issues.

Forrester has put out a new digital marketing report, off the back of a survey of more than 58,000 online consumers, looking at how brands can better sell themselves and create content that flies in the digital age. One interesting takeaway is a chart (see below) which shows how US and European consumers react to different types of advertising/marketing content. While the finding that trust in ‘traditional’ push marketing techniques (such as banner ads) is at rock bottom in the online world isn’t a surprise, the chart doesn’t make hugely encouraging reading for proponents of social marketing which also languishes near the bottom of the trust index, just above the mobile apps channel. Text message communications were the least trusted, while online banner ads barely rated above spammy SMS in the trust stakes.

– Techcrunch5

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The Grey Areas

Lines that differentiate push and pull marketing strategies are not so clear cut. There are several instances when they do overlap and sometimes, do work in tandem. Some marketing experts even assert that they should work together instead of favouring one over the other. Email marketing in an example that falls under the grey area, as quoted by Studio One –

When a customer signs up to receive emails from you, it’s likely because you’ve pulled them in with great content and experiences. But when you turn around and send a promotional email to that customer then you are back in the push game. Same with the content that you create: content itself is one of the purest forms of pull marketing. But some forms of content distribution, such as ads on social media, will fall under push marketing.6

So, which side of the coin does branding fall?

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Entrepreneur defines branding as the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design. A brand tells consumers what they can expect from the product or service and what that differentiates the offering from other competing brands. The foundation of any brand is the logo. The website, packaging and promotional materials — all of which must integrate with logo — communicates the brand.7

“Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing efforts”, according to the Tronvi Group. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organisation, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.8
Branding is closely woven into the sales and marketing efforts that are at play for the brand. It is the basis as well as the set guide for all activities involving the build and promotion of the brand. A brand however does not say “Buy Me Now” the way the push strategy does. A brand communicates “This is what I am all about. If that’s something that resonates or is acceptable to you, support me.” Branding therefore is a pull strategy.

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Branding is Pull. It’s all about loyalty.

Branding is what marketing is hinged on and contributes to. Branding is the core message that marketing tries to communicate in countless ways. It is the message and the truth that remains and get stuck in people’s head long after a marketing campaign has been concluded. It is the message people remember whether or not they bought the product or service at that particular moment. Branding is establishing a connection with the buyer. If that connection, as well as the truth behind the message resonates, then a lasting engagement with the buyer is created and brand loyalty begins.

Tronvi Group explains it well.

The brand is ultimately what determines if you will become a loyal customer or not. The marketing may convince you to buy a particular Toyota, and maybe it’s the first foreign car you ever owned, but it is the brand that will determine if you will only buy Toyota’s for the rest of your life.
The brand is built from many things. Very important among these things is the lived experience of the brand. Did that car deliver on its brand promise of reliability? Did the maker continue to uphold the quality standards that made them what they are? Did the sales guy or the service centre mechanic know what they were talking about? Marketing unearths and activates buyers. Branding makes loyal customers, advocates, even evangelists, out of those who buy.9

Keeping customers and turning them into loyal ones makes more sense than creating new customers. The following infographic from Flowtown illustrates this point best.

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Making it all fit.

We have written a number of articles on design, the power of colour and everything else that relates to creating that tiny piece of “mark or symbol” called the logo supposed to present who and what a company is all about in 90 seconds. But we are not just a logo designing company. We are a branding company and that excites us tremendously. It simply means we are involved in not just creating the symbol of the “experience” but in creating the very “experiences” consumers expect from the company behind the symbol.

All our branding projects are carefully studied to “fit” and convey the same message the logo communicates. Everything has to work together. Yes, a perfectly designed logo does communicate the values, the core and the truth behind the company but it is not and can never be enough. It’s a base, a good starting point. Branding must convey that same message not confuse it. It must enforce that same message in EVERY visual design. Great branding must “pull” consumers to an engagement because they understand, believe and support what the company, the service or the product is all about.

We understand. We are a design company and we love branding. Ask us what we can do for you.

References :

1 http://www.marketing-schools.org/types-of-marketing/push-marketing.html
2 http://www.studioone.com/2015/02/20/push-vs-pull-where-to-focus-your-marketing-efforts/
3 http://www.marketing-schools.org/types-of-marketing/push-marketing.html
4 http://www.studioone.com/2015/02/20/push-vs-pull-where-to-focus-your-marketing-efforts/
5 http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/21/forrester-digital-marketing-poll/
6 http://www.studioone.com/2015/02/20/push-vs-pull-where-to-focus-your-marketing-efforts/
7 http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/branding
8 http://www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/
9 http://www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/