How to determine the size of your brand’s media budget

Your media plan starts with your brand’s media budget. You can’t do anything until you know how much you have. 

Then, look at your brand’s core strength and how tightly connected your brand is with consumers. From there, identify which point on the consumer journey you wish to impact and where your consumers are most willing to engage your message. Finally, match up the media choices to best fit your creative execution.

Always balance your media choices by looking at media efficiency, quality, impact, and fit with the brand. The efficiency of media math starts with reach and frequency. Reach is the number or percentage of different households or people exposed to the ad at least once, over a specific period. Frequency is the number of times that households or persons will be exposed to the ad within a particular period.

media budget questions

Be careful to avoid relying on efficiency alone. You need to balance it with the quality of the media choices. Moreover, I always set aside about 10 percent of my media budget to create a high impact to generate early attention to a new campaign or product innovation.

Media strategy

How strategy drives media choices

Use your strategic thinking to understand how much you can invest. Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity point. The reasons you would strategically invest in the media include:  

  • Discovery of a new brand message you know will motivate consumers to buy your brand.
  • Identified change in consumer needs, motivations, or behaviors, which will benefit your brand.
  • Shift the competitive dynamic, with an opportunity to make gains or a necessity to defend.
  • Continue to fuel brand growth with a window to drive brand profits. 
  • New distribution channel you can use to move consumers through before competitors do.
  • The launch of a breakthrough product innovation offering a competitive advantage to your brand. 

To make the media investment pay off, you need to be able to drive a performance result that pays back with an increase in brand power you can use in the future or an immediate increase in brand profit. 

Media Budget

The six factors to help guide you on the size of your media budget:

  1. Brand profit situation, looking at margin rates and size of the business.
  2. Past media ROI projected forward as a forecast of the potential.
  3. Impact of your current creative advertising tracking results
  4. Future investment opportunities or future threats to battle.
  5. Degree of competitive pressures in the marketplace and their levels of media spend.
  6. The comparative opportunity cost for investing elsewhere.

Media budget levels

Zero-based marketing budgeting starts off each new year assuming all brand budgets are zero and the brand must prove their case to earn its budget level. 

While it makes perfect sense in theory, this is not an easy concept to implement. One risk I see is that a zero-based budget could lead to short-term and highly transactional advertising.

A brand needs to balance brand-building activities, which add to the long-term connection with consumers with transactional call-to-action messaging intended to trigger purchases. For instance, if you tell me “Buy two, get one free” for five straight years, your consumers will eventually forget why they should buy your product at all, let alone two. There is a degree of uncertainty in making investment decisions. Get comfortable with your instincts to balance the degree of ambiguity to make the smart decision.

Low media budget focuses on blowfish type marketing

When you feel the risk/reward of the media investment is unknown, it might be wise to start with a smaller investment level. Use what I call a “blowfish” media plan. Among those you target, you appear to be a large brand. Pick a tight target market with a limited media choice or geographic focus to replicate how a more substantial media investment would appear. When the unknown is very high, get smarter by using test markets with various media spend levels to gain the necessary consumer response data before you make a full investment.

Medium Investment should use selective target choices

You should use a medium investment level when your brand faces only a couple of the media investment factors listed above, yet your brand has the size and margin to invest. With this level of spend, you should use a selective media plan by making smart choices of the target market that you know will respond to those media choices proven to pay back.

High media budget level opens you up to mass or always on

You should use a high investment level when your brand faces many of the investment factors, including profitable brand, reliable messaging, product innovation, and an intensely competitive situation. You can afford to take a mass approach. However, just because you have a lot of money does not mean you should waste it. I still recommend using one lead media choice and then use support media to supplement. Figure out your lead paid media and your lead earned media to provide focus and alignment with your strategy.

Watch out that your non-working production costs do not get too high

One important consideration with any investment plan is to balance media spending and creative production costs. Your brand’s working dollars are those investments that directly reach and influence the consumer. You can directly see the impact and measure the payback. Media is considered working dollars. You do not want to spread your brand across too many media choices. If most of your brand’s advertising budget is spent making TV ads, billboards, and radio ads or paying for talent in the ads, then you will not have enough spending left to reach the consumer.  

Media is a business investment that showcases your brand story through creative execution. Media helps connect your brand with consumers where consumers are most willing to engage, listen, think, feel, and act in ways that pay back your brand.

Build your media into a planning calendar

Your brand plan should include an activity calendar to guide everyone who will execute the plan, so everyone can see how the execution elements fit. It allows you to manage the finances of the organization and the people who will deliver the work. 

Media decisions

Media Planning

Integrated marketing plan

Advertising results

How to predict advertising success

Let’s take this creative thinking to a predictive advertising model, changing the creatively different to branded breakthrough, and the smart strategy becomes motivating consumers.  

The branded breakthrough is “how you say it.” It uses creativity to capture the consumer’s attention within the clutter of the market while linking your brand closer to the story. And, the motivating message is “what you say.” You have to communicate the main message to connect with consumers memorably, so the ad sticks enough to move consumers to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the ad.

To illustrate, click on the diagram to zoom in. 

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

The 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 on the ABC’s of advertising to see details.

The best marketing execution uses in-the-box creativity. Indeed, we believe there is great marketing execution that uses emotional advertising, humor, feel-good ads, and consumer insights

Importantly, we have posts on writing creative brief, running the advertising process, making advertising decisions, and media plans

Moreover, read how to conduct your own marketing research, social media plans, and how to lead the innovation.  

Challenge yourself to get better at advertising

  • If you realized that how you show up as a client is the most significant factor in getting better advertising, would you show up differently? If so, then show up right.  
  • Be one of your agency’s favorite clients. Essentially, never treat anyone like they have to work on your business. Without a doubt, inspire everyone to want to work on your brand. 
  • Undoubtedly, stay focused on one target, one strategy, one consumer benefit and one brand idea. For this reason, avoid the just in case list or adding one more thing.  
  • When writing a brief or providing feedback, resist controlling the creative outcome. Absolutely, give them your problems. And, never give them your solutions.
  • Importantly, be willing to fight anyone in the way of great work, even with your boss. You will start to see everyone on the team fight for you.  
  • LOVE your advertising, and never settle for OK. Never approve OK advertising that feels safe. What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? Unquestionably, Ok is contagious. 
Beloved Brands graham robertson

Contact Information

Graham Robertson

Email: graham@beloved-brands.com

Phone: 416–885–3911

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