Published on .

Marketers face an increasingly complex dilemma: How to build the brand and move product at the same time.

These are not necessarily complementary goals. Nissan, for instance, is working hard at developing a brand image for its line of cars but so far has had limited sales success.

The problem is especially acute when a marketer has dealers or franchisees clamoring for immediate results. They are for the most part small businesses, and they don't have the luxury of patience. They need to ring the cash registers now.

Dealers and franchisees see moving product as a short-term objective, and marketers view building the brand as long-term. You can't sell goods on a profitable basis unless you have a strong brand, yet in the quest for a quick payoff both marketers and dealers/franchisees sacrifice the latter for the former. And truth be known, the marketing team is often not in place long enough to build a consistent brand identity. And the dealers and franchisees, being well aware of the revolving door status of the marketing people, become even more vocal and impatient for move-the-merchandise advertising, whether or not it contributes to the long-term strength of the overall brand.

That brings us to the current plight of McDonald's. In the face of superior brand advertising from both Burger King and Wendy's that's had the effect of prying loose previously loyal McDonald's customers, McDonald's is pulling out all the stops with a gigantic price promotion.

Some franchisees are skeptical. "All I know is that we've been down for five or six quarters and our competitors are doing well, and I don't see them selling 55cents hamburgers. So my question is: what are they doing that we're not?" one franchisee told this family magazine.

What they're doing, dear franchisee, is building their brands, something McDonald's hasn't been doing much of lately. First it squandered ad money on the Arch Deluxe flopola, then it concentrated its promotional muscle on hawking french fries. Precious little was spent telling loyal patrons why McDonald's was a good place to come for a quick and good-tasting meal. In fact the Arch Deluxe ads told McDonald's key customers-kids-to stay away. And they apparently took the message to heart.

At the same time McDonald's is launching its "Campaign 55" price promotion, the burger chain is also readying a new brand-building theme, "My McDonald's."

But with both the price cuts and the brand campaign tugging at customers' sleeves for attention, will McDonald's patrons start to wonder which theme represents their McDonald's?

That's the trouble with dual campaigns: They work toward conflicting ends. One creates an image for the brand, one tears it down by talking discounts and mundane features.

Perhaps McDonald's and other marketers in the same spot should take a page out of the Cover Girl playbook. As we reported last week, P&G wanted to emulate what Nike-and few others-have successfully done by integrating Cover Girl cosmetics product and brand in a seamless campaign.

Cruise lines desperately need to try this approach. To me, all cruise line ads are the same. What they need to do is establish the mood of cruising while at the same time tell what's special about their particular ships. I have a feeling Norwegian Cruise Line is about to do just that-it's hired a new marketing director to set up an in-house ad operation; let Goodby Silverstein beware. The marketing environment is different out there, and everybody from McDonald's and

Most Popular