Consumers don’t care about the line – maybe you shouldn’t either?

28 June 2019

Consumers don’t care about the line – maybe you shouldn’t either?

Some call it above and below the line. Others call it branding and tactical communication. Fredrik Fenberg is instead calling for us to take a much more holistic approach.


Advertising buyers have traditionally distinguished between Above the Line (ATL) and Below the Line (BTL). Broadly speaking, ATL refers to the brand-building efforts that took place in classic media such as TV spots and adverts. It was often considered to be slightly more refined – or at least more fun – to work with.

And conversely: If you worked with BTL, you would say that branding could be a lot of fun, but it’s the results that count. For that reason, there has been a keen focus on promotional activities and tactical messages. This is typically where you get closer to the purchasing situation. In the past, tactical communication was most often POS/POP (Point of Sale or Purchase, depending on your point of view), but today it is highly digital, primarily e-commerce supported by email.

The division may have made sense at one time, but in an omnichannel world I find it a bit difficult to see the point of it. If we try looking at it from a consumer’s point of view, they barely distinguish between the different levels. After all, your logo is on everything. So excuse the long opening, but it was necessary in order to get to my next point:

Who said that emotional marketing only belongs in branding campaigns?

The division between ATL and BTL is today not only artificial, it is also unnecessary. I think that we need to think more holistically. For example, by bringing new psychological tools like modern archetypes into the game, you can significantly increase the quality of what you send into the mind of the consumer. With the insights from the modern archetypes, it is now possible to package even a tactical message so that it becomes filled with branding – or consumer stickiness, if you will – and thus provides maximum meaning for the consumer.

Common Sense = Reason X Emotion

There is an elegant equation that goes as follows: Common Sense = Reason X Emotion. In August 2016, Harvard and Bain Consulting released a report showing that companies able to work with both Reason and Emotion at the same time grow four times faster.

Branding and emotional communication therefore belong just as much in an email or in a banner – or any physical communication regardless of channel – as in a TVC. If you also combine communication with a technology like profiling that combines content and the individual user experience down to the smallest detail on your digital platforms (or your offline channels, if you have them), you can seriously move your sales and thus your brand performance.

The only line you should be focusing on

Modern archetypes and other data points enable us to do what we marketers have dreamed of doing for many years: to create targeted consumer experiences throughout any omnichannel setup, whether digital or offline, profiting both the creative outcome as well as the results.

It is therefore time to think holistically and forget silo thinking and the dividing line between branding and tactical communication. If I absolutely must focus on a line, I will always choose the bottom line. If you feel the same way, I’m quite sure that we should have a chat.

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