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How to Predict Advertising Success

Great advertising must balance the being different in terms of creativity and staying smart when it comes to strategy. The sweet spot for great advertising is to be different and smart. In terms of judging, I will show you the ABC’S of Advertising, which stands for Attention, Brand Link, Communication and Stickiness.Brand Link in Advertising

Advertising must be different enough to break through in our cluttered media world. Yet, advertising must be smart enough to motivate consumers to see, think, feel or act in ways that benefit the brand.

Smart but not different gets lost in the clutter. Brand Leaders should be scared when the ads seem “too familiar” as it will bore consumers, and fail to break through. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of business, Marketers look for past proof that something will work. Unfortunately, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of getting stuck in the clutter. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your Ad breaks through.

Different but not smart will entertain but do nothing for the brand. Advertising must be smart to trigger a desired consumer response that matches up to the brand strategy. You must know you have the right message, that is smart enough to move consumers to see, think, feel or do, while expressing a brand positioning that can build a brand reputation over time.Great advertising moves the consumer along their purchase journey. It must enter the mind of consumers at the aware stage, gain consideration and move towards buy.

Advertising tracking

Taking this thinking to predicting advertising success on the chart below, creatively different becomes branded breakthrough and smart strategy becomes motivating consumers.

Predicting Advertising results

Branded Breakthrough is the creativity involved in how you capture consumers. You want the advertising to stand out within the clutter to connect with consumers, while linking brand closely to the story.

The Motivating Message is what you say to consumers. The main message must connect consumers and move them to see, think, feel or act differently than before they saw the advertising.

Creative Advertising Success

The ABC’S Model

I translate these two elements into the ABC’s, which stands for Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. The Branded Breakthrough can be broken out into Attention which breaks through the clutter of the marketplace, and links closely to the Brand name. You want consumers to remember the Ad and recall what brand the ad is for. The Motivating Message breaks out into the Communication of the main message and the triggering of a desired response to prove the Ad sticks with consumers. People have to play back the main message, and report that it will persuade them to buy.

Predicting Advertising results

How to increase Brand Link


There is an old Advertising saying: “Half of all advertising is wasted, but we aren’t sure which half.” Coincidently, the average brand link score is usually under 50%. The best brand link scores occur when your brand is not just part of the story, but is the driver of the story itself.

The first brand link myth says you want to make sure the brand shows up in the first 7 seconds of a TV ad.

However, Milward Brown advertising tracking data shows brand linkage is not related to the time at which the brand name first appears in an ad. Looking at data in the chart below to the left hand side, the dotted line at approximately 40% represents the average brand link of all the Ads in the Milward Brown data base. The specific dots represent the time during a 30-second TV Ad that the brand first shows up. You can see a fairly even distribution above and below the brand link average at most times during the Ad. Even for those ads where the brand shows up in the first 7 seconds have a 50/50 chance of scoring above the brand link average, which is the same success rate when the brand shows up after 25 seconds.

The second brand link myth is Ads that show the brand more often will score higher on brand link.

Looking at the Milward Brown chart below to the right, it shows no relationship between how often the brand appears in the ad and the resulting brand linkage. The data looks at four choices for how often the brand name shows up in the Ad, including none, continuous, at key parts and only at the end. Just like the first myth, there is no correlation between how many times the brand name shows up and how strong the brand link scores are.

Creative Advertising Success


The best BRAND LINK comes when you connect your brand closely to the climax of the Ad’s story. View the brand through the eyes of your consumer, resonate with vulnerable consumer insights, make your brand central to the story and then own it. Here are the four ways to drive brand link, with examples.

1. Make your brand a central part of the story

From my experience, it is not how much branding you use, but rather how closely connected the revel of the brand is linked with the climax of your ad.

“Got Milk” launched a hilarious Ad that tells an elaborate story of an Alexander Hamilton expert who cannot answer an easy trivia question on a radio show, because his mouth is full of a peanut butter sandwich and he is out of milk. A great human insight for milk lovers, because milk is a great drink to wash down a peanut butter sandwich. The “Got Milk” campaign lasted 20 years.

During the turbulent times of the early 70s, Coke assembled people on a hill to sing “Teach the world to sing.” Everyone in the commercial was holding a bottle of Coke. This Ad spoke to a generation, and is viewed as one of the best Ads of all time.

In the early 1990s, Bell Canada showcased how consumers could connect with anyone at anytime. They used a teenager, standing on a beach at Dieppe, France. He calls home to his grandfather back in Canada to thank him for everything he did in World War II. An extremely heartwarming Ad will definitely make you cry.

2. Resonate with meaningful consumer insights

Tell compelling human-interest story that connect as the ad shows how consumers see themselves, closely linking your brand to the insight.

Back in 1999,, a job search website, launched a highly engaging Ad that stood out during the Super Bowl. The Ad used an insightful message, with young kids saying the worst possible thoughts about job hunting. This script says, “When I grow up…I want to file all day long… want to be forced into early retirement….and I want to be under appreciated…I want to be paid less for doing the same job. These truthful insights connect powerful by showcasing the enemy of job-seekers and it sets up as the ideal solution.

The Always “Like a Girl” campaign is an inspirational video that connects with true insight about how the perception of how girls run changes when they hit puberty. This Ad asks 10 year-old-girls to run like a girl and they run normally. Then, it asks older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl and they depict a negative stereotypical feminine fashion. It challenges viewers to rethink stereotypes and inspires girls with an uplifting message.

3. View the brand through the eyes of your consumer

Use emotional stories to demonstrate how the consumer actually engages your brand.

Using only Google searches, this Super Bowl Ad tells the story of an American student who goes to Paris, meets a girl, maintains a long distance relationship, gets married, lands a job in Paris and then has a baby. Every part of the story is told with Google searches that surprise the consumer, as they follow the story. The ad shows how much we can use Google for anything we need in life.

Canadian Tire is a dominant Canadian hardware retailer. They launched beautiful old-fashioned story about a boy who sees a bike in a Canadian Tire catalog, and dreams of getting that bike. But, he could never asks for it.  And then, the final reveal is a tear-jerking story with his dad bringing home a bike. The Canadian Tire brand is central to the story.

4. Own the story of the brand

Make sure to tell the story of the brand, amplifying what sets you apart from anyone else. Create a strong visual cue, that you can build over time, big enough to repeat, and repeat and repeat.

A great example of a high brand link is the McDonald’s Big Mac jingle with a descriptive “Two all beef patties…” song about the brand, which broke through and has stuck in the consumer’s mind for decades.

The way to get maximum involvement is to make your brand part of the story, especially for low involvement brands. Avoid the phrase “And, then we cut away to the pack shot” by integrating your brand device right into the story.

Here are a few examples of brands that build a branding device right into their advertising:

Michelin Tires

Listerine “Action Hero”

Kit Kat “Have a break”



As someone with a career in running branded businesses, I certainly have a bias that great advertising must score well on brand link.


To learn more about how to judge advertising that works, here is our Marketing Execution workshop we run to help train Brand Leaders:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson








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Graham Robertson

Graham spent 20 years in Brand Management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke, rising up to VP Marketing. In his career, he has won numerous Advertising, Innovation and Leadership awards. Graham played a major role in helping J&J win Marketing Magazine’s prestigious “Marketer of the Year” award. Graham brings a reputation for challenging brand leaders to think differently and to be more strategically focused. Graham founded Beloved Brands in 2010, to help brands find growth and make brand leaders smarter. He leads workshops to help define your Brand Positioning, build your brand’s Big Idea, and write strategic Brand Plans that motivate and focus everyone that works on the brand. Our Beloved Brands training programs will help your team, produce exceptionally smart work work that drives stronger brand growth and profits. We cover everything a brand leader needs to know including strategic thinking, planning, positioning, execution and analytics. Our robust client roster has included the NFL Players Association, Reebok, the NBA, Acura, Shell, Miller Lite, 3M, Jack Link’s and Pfizer. His weekly brand stories have generated over 5 million views.

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