How to improve the brand link on your advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]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

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.

Logically, that thought might make sense. However, it is not true. The 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, the dotted line at approximately 40% represents the average brand link of all the ads in the Milward Brown database. The specific dots represent the time during a 30-second TV ad when the brand first shows up. The timeline for the ad is at the bottom of the chart. What you can see is a reasonably even distribution above and below the average brand link at most times during the ad. Even for those ads where the brand shows up in the first few seconds have a 50/50 chance of scoring above the brand link average, which is the same success rate when the brand shows up for the first time at the 25-second mark.

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 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 along the bottom, for the frequency of the brand showing up in the ad, including none, continuous, at key parts, or 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 your brand link score will be.

Creative Advertising Success


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 to 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 any time. 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 a compelling human-interest story that connects 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 underappreciated…I want to be paid less for doing the same job. These truthful insights connect powerfully 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 into 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 a 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 ask 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.

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Beloved Brands.

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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.

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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.

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

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