Marketing is an investment that requires patience and fortitude, not an expense as some businesses might believe. It’s one thing to invest in marketing when times are good, and another to continue spending steadily when things are getting tight. Before you cut your budget or rush headlong into an all-new approach, consider brand accretion.
The dictionary defines accretion as the process of growth or enlargement by a gradual buildup. Brand accretion is therefore the simple principle that the more you invest—and the more consistently you invest—the better your long-term returns will be. The principle of accretion is generally accepted when it comes to real estate, the stock market, and even collectibles. Invest in solid assets, hang on to them, and watch the value of your holdings grow over time. Accretion is the opposite of dilution, something nobody wants—for their balance sheet or their brand.
Regrettably, many companies neglect the power of brand accretion. They treat marketing as if it were just another expense, valued only for the benefits it can provide today. Expenses are about immediate gratification—that "new car smell," a high-definition picture, or a faster computer—but the value of those assets declines over time. Investments, however, are different. Investments provide long-term impact that matches and often outweighs their short-term benefits. Investments should be evaluated differently than expenses.
In a branding context, accretion means that none of your marketing efforts exist in a vacuum. Sure, you want them to have an impact today, but they also add to, and are interpreted within, the context of your past and future efforts. Think of branding as a process, not a static point in time; if your message is steady and consistent, you can build significant brand equity. If, however, you continually change your approach, carelessly cut your budget, or seek only short-term benefits, you'll be compromising your own long-term interests.
Marketers who judge their efforts only by the immediate gratification of the hits, visits, or sales they quickly generate fail to see the big picture. James Gregory's marketing firm, CoreBrand, has conducted years of research about the long-term effects of marketing investments. He says it's rare for even a one-year surge in advertising spending to generate measurable results in image development; it's usually at least three years before you see real change. That's a long time if you're starting from zero, but if your efforts are continuous, the power of accretion will continually work on your behalf.
Branding is like baseball: You may throw a bad pitch, but it's a long season. If you execute steadily and consistently, the statistics will work in your favor. That's why some companies create dozens of commercials to determine which six or eight will make the cut to appear during special occasions or campaigns. They run the commercials in test markets in the weeks before the campaign, determining which ones performs best. Those that don't make it aren't a waste of money; they're part of the company's investment in a better final product.
It's likely that your company has neither the history, nor the marketing budget the kind of companies above have. That makes the principle of accretion even more important to you. The smaller your brand-equity nest egg, the more important it is that you invest in it steadily and consistently. Any knowledgeable investor knows that changing your investment strategy without cause is ill-advised, and that every naira that remains un-invested is a naira that can't benefit from the power of accretion. The same thing is true for branding.