Whether you are a big or a small company, knowing where to spend your budget wisely is something that worries us all. Before the internet came along, it was easy: if you had a big budget you would spend it on a TV ad, if you had a smaller budget you’d do some radio or print advertising. But now the internet has opened a myriad of possibilities: is social media the right place to create brand awareness? Should I run an ad on Spotify? Invest in an app? Let’s take a step back and question the first assumption, which still remains as true to many marketing managers: if I have a big budget I should invest on a TV ad, as it will reach a wider, targeted, audience and give credibility to my brand (‘cause, you know, I’m on TV). Therefore, if I’m a startup with limited budget I should stick to social media marketing, as it’s cheaper, and if I have influencers endorsing my brand and I’m lucky enough to go viral everyone will hear and talk about my brand. Right? Wrong. Your budget should not determine what platform you use to market your products or services. You should pick a platform (or variety of them) taking into account where your audience spends most of their time, where it would be natural for them to find you, and where you could make a memorable impact on them so they remember you. TV is being replaced by on demand TV, be it Apple TV, Netflix, or any other service that allows people to watch their favourite series and programmes without interruptions, so if you’re after a young audience, even if you have a big budget, is it best to go on TV? Or maybe you should do something cool at a music festival? Ok, if you have a massive budget you may consider to do both. But would that be the smartest way of spending your budget? You may hear that the more places people see your brand the better, but wouldn’t it be better to build a connection with your audience and let them do the talking? Word of mouth is still the most effective way of promotion. Ok, social media it is then! It’s good for creating engagement and my audience can spread the word worldwide! Social media doesn’t work on its own. In order to use social media effectively you need to create a strong brand culture, you need a good branding strategy that differentiates your brand from the competition and represents a culture that your target can relate to (think of Vans or Nike). I’m getting confused, you may say. What is right and what is wrong then? My budget does restrict me, so what do you suggest I do? There is no right or wrong platform, there are platforms that will suit your brand better than others. The best thing to do is think how to make an impression, and as I mentioned earlier, have a strong brand culture that your audience will identify with and want to be part of. And try to integrate platforms. What does that mean? Going back to the festival example, Heineken set up a tent in a music festival where people could print out stickers with a QR Code (when QR Codes were new and popular) that when scanned would show the message you wanted. The idea was to make it easier for people to meet new people and make friends, giving them an easy excuse to approach each other and start a conversation. The campaign was extremely successful and people posted it on social media. Aha! When your fans are the ones talking about how cool you are without you telling them to do so, you’re doing a good job. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Most companies sit there throwing promotional messages at their followers on social media. But does that work? Again, unless you have a well defined culture, it doesn’t. Innocent tweeted this the other day: Buy Smoothies, they say. That is definitely a “salesy” message, but it has 263 likes! Why? Because they have a well defined brand culture. They have a tone of voice, they have sense of humour, they have well defined values, they are consistent, they have personality, and it’s a cool one. Focus on the concept. I read a really good article the other day that talked about the lost art of the billboard, and it emphasised on the thought that a good concept is the most powerful weapon. Here’s an example: Print advertising, yes. It tells you the USP of the product, it gathers your attention, it makes you think about the product, and remember it. Is social media more effective than print? Depends on how you use it. But wait, you haven’t answered the question: what platform do I pick and how do I make the most out of my marketing budget? Invest in branding. And with branding I don’t mean go buy a logo. I mean branding and all that it entails. Find what your brand stands for, your mission, your vision, your values, your competitive advantage, define your target, create a brand culture, and stick to it. And by stick to it I don’t mean ‘don’t ever change it’, cause brands evolve over time and you’ll have to revisit your brand strategy again and again to stay relevant, what I mean is be consistent. Once you have all of that, you will know where to mingle with your audience, you will be ready to find ways to grab their attention so they start talking about you without you telling them to. And then, you will succeed.