Consumers must be able to link your advertising back to the brand



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The best brand link comes when you connect your brand closer to the climax of the ad’s story. You should view your brand through the eyes of your consumer. Resonate with vulnerable consumer insights, make your brand central to the story, and then own it. The highest brand link occurs when your brand is not just part of the story. But it is the driver of the story itself. There are a couple of myths about what makes strong brand link scores I would like to challenge.

When judging advertising, I look to ensure the creative idea within the ad that drives the attention. The creative idea tells the brand story. The creative idea communicates the main benefit. And, it is the creative idea that sticks in the consumer’s mind. When you see a story, device, copy, or a visual that does not fit, then you have a red flag. You run the risk that the creativity of the ad works against your objectives. 


To illustrate, click to zoom in on the diagram on brand link. 

Use our ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • First, is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand link?
  • Next, is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the diagram on brand link. 

Brand link myths

The first brand link myth I hear: “Make sure the brand name shows up in the first few seconds of your TV ad.”

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the diagram on brand link. 

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. 

  • Look at data in the chart. The dotted line at approximately 40% represents the average brand link. (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. 
  • There 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. That’s the same success rate when the brand shows up for the first time at the 25-second mark.

The second brand link myth I hear is, “The more often you show the brand, the higher brand link scores.”

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the diagram on brand link. 

Looking at the Milward Brown chart, 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 the frequency of the brand showing up in the ad. This includes no brand, continuous, at key parts, or only at the end. 
  • There is a reasonably even distribution above and below the average brand link regardless of how often the brand name is shown.  
  • Even for those ads where the brand shows up at the end generate a similar brand link as those that show up continuously throughout the ad. 

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.

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Brand link Advertising

The four best ways to drive more brand link

  1. Make your brand a central part of the story
  2. Resonate with meaningful consumer insights
  3. View the brand through the eyes of your consumer
  4. Own the story of the brand

Make your brand a central part of the story

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

Got Milk

“Got milk?” launched a hilarious and engaging storytelling ad with an elaborate tale of an Alexander Hamilton expert. He finds himself on a radio show, ready to answer an easy trivia question about Alexander Hamilton. However, after taking a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, as he is about to answer, he realizes he is out of milk. With an elaborate story, the reveal of the brand comes at the climax of the story. The “Got milk?” campaign lasted over 20 years.

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

Got Milk created a very distinctive and incongruent campaign with a milk stain on the lips of celebrities. These ads stood out from the clutter by being so different from what your consumers expect or from what they are watching at the moment. The milk boards ran these distinctive ads for decades, giving them an amazing device to drive brand link. 

To view, click to view our ad that has strong brand link. 


Levis Jeans were the must have product of the 1980s and early 1900s. As they launched their button fly version of the jeans, they created a very telling story of a woman provocatively doing up her jeans right in front of a blind man…inches away…

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

KitKat out-of-home ad

With any impulse brand, using point of craving type advertising can be very powerful. This chocolate bench creates an amazing amount of temptation for KitKat. 

To view, click to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

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.

Always: #LikeAGirl

The Always “Like a girl” campaign connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty. The ad asks older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl, and they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, it asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. It asks what changes to make the older girls see running as a negative. 

The ad challenges viewers to rethink their stereotypes. It inspires girls with an uplifting message to be themselves and encourages them to believe that, “running like a girl” is a good thing. Always closely uses insights about changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughters will be choosing a feminine hygiene brand.  

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

Toyota Swaggerwagon

Toyota Swaggerwagon ad brings parent insights into their rap song, poking fun at parents who still think they are cool. This ad will connect with any parent who remembers what it was like to be cool.

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

Ariel (India)

The Ariel brand (P&G) in India took a stand on how working women are running the house and working full time. The story is told through the eyes of the woman’s father, who sees what his daughter is going through, and feels guilty for how he treated his own marriage.  

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

View the brand through the eyes of your consumer 

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

Google "Paris"

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.

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

Ikea "Lamp"

The Ikea lamp ad has a very engaging message that projects Ikea’s furniture as disposable, which is a very honest view of how consumers see Ikea.

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

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.

Absolut Vodka

As Absolut Vodka entered the global market, they had created such a simple, beautiful and pure package, and then built a 40-year-old ad campaign around their bottle. The visual has become an icon that immediately screams Absolut!

To view, click to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

McDonald's Big Mac

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. It broke through and remains stuck in the consumer’s mind.

To view, click on the arrow to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

The Marlboro Man

One of the greatest icons in advertising history is The Marlboro Man which enabled Phillip Morris to reposition filtered cigarettes from a woman’s cigarette to one that a man would use. 

Ads that brand link

To view, click to view our ad that has strong brand link. 

Getting attention

Read our post on how to create attention through your advertising

Ads that stick

Read our post on how to make advertising that sticks in the minds of consumers

Coke ads

Coca-Cola case study: Lessons from the best Coke ads of all time

Over the past 100 years, Coca-Cola has been the best advertising brand. Sure, Nike and Apple have battled for the best over the past 40 years, but they’d need to get to 2080 before challenging Coke. 

Best Coke ads

Apple advertising

What you can learn from the best Apple Advertising of all time

Apple advertising has delivered “simplicity” since the 1970s. Apple’s advertising has been relatively consistent for over 40 years and incredibly connected with consumers. You could build an Apple case study on the advertising alone. So we did!

Apple TV ad, the crazy ones

Nike advertising

Our Nike case study looks at 30 years of 'Just do it'

Nike case study Kobe Air Jordan Advertising that sticks
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