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Brand Marketers, Avoid the Trap of Short-Termism

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Disproportionately focusing on short-term performance over long-term brand-building will hurt your overall success.

Two businesswomen looking at a screen together

The Long and Short of It

If you took any marketing classes in college over the last decade, chances are good that you've read that reliable staple The Long and Short of It (TLASOI) by Peter Field and Les Binet. On the book's 10th anniversary, the concepts inside still feel fresh and relevant to our brand campaigns today.

Nationwide, brands have been cutting their marketing budgets due to inflation and fears of recession. When times are tight, many marketers feel the pressure to close the sale and place a disproportionate emphasis on short-term performance metrics -- that's understandable! But be careful not to lose sight of the long-term brand trajectory.

While the immediate ROI metrics can look attractive and seem to reinforce this approach, we caution marketers not to get short-sighted and overlook the importance of long-term brand-building. This mistake is called short-termism -- here's why it must be overcome to ensure brand success.

What is Short-Termism?

Any Channel Can Support Long or Short Goals

Balancing the Duality


What is Short-Termism?

In TLASOI, Field and Binet identified two distinct yet interconnected communication approaches. The "long" refers to a focus on brand-building over a three-year-plus timeframe, while the "short" emphasizes sales activation within a 12-month horizon.

Short-termism is the marketing fallacy of focusing too heavily on acquiring new customers and activating sales, at the expense of building long-term customer retention and loyalty.

Forces such as the rise of digital media suppliers, the emphasis on proving advertising value, and a lack of statistical skills can steer marketers toward shortsighted strategies.

The Difference Between Long and Short Tactics

Identifying what constitutes the "long" and the "short" in real-world scenarios can be challenging. It's important to recognize that both share the same overarching purpose but operate at different speeds.

The short-term, sales activation component is evident in calls to action like visiting a website, purchasing a product, or responding to limited-time offers.

In contrast, long-term initiatives aim to create lasting memories that drive enduring changes in behavior, such as building awareness among new consumers or driving consideration for premium products.

Both long-term brand building and short-term sales activation contribute significantly to commercial success. The key lies in striking the right balance between these approaches for optimal results.

Any Channel Can Support Long or Short Goals

Misconceptions often arise when assigning media exclusively to one approach or the other. While certain media may align more closely with either the long or the short, any medium can serve both purposes effectively. Digital media, often seen as a short-term tool, can also be harnessed for long-term brand-building objectives.

“You have to produce results in the short term. But you also have to produce results in the long term. And the long term is not simply the adding up of short terms.” - Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management

Balancing the Duality

The infamous 60:40 rule of marketing recommends 60% of a marketing budget be allocated to brand-building and 40% to sales activation. Though certainly oversimplified, the 60:40 rule still holds up as a general guideline to help marketers maintain a perspective of their overall goals and avoid short-termism. Of course, you should modify those percentages to serve your specific brand!

The professional media planners and buyers at Exverus help CMOs and brand leaders overcome short-termism and set their brands up for lasting success every day. If you have questions about media strategy or balancing the many available channels, drop us a line on the contact page or comment below. We'd love to hear from you!


This piece originally appeared in our weekly Paid Media Insights newsletter. For more tips, research, and analysis; subscribe for free here.

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