My son posed an interesting question about the endless parade of ads during the NFL playoffs: “So you’re supposed to buy Coors Light … because it’s cold? Isn’t that more a function of your refrigerator?”

It’s a funny question that leads to a larger one: Why do Bud Light, Coors, Coca-Cola, et al., still spend millions of dollars on TV advertising? The ads rarely mention product features, and there’s no discount or call to action.

Here in the digital age we’ve become obsessed with tracking every click and call, and for many local advertisers especially, TV has become “too expensive.” No doubt, TV and radio are costly, and audiences are increasingly fragmented with all the options we have to occupy our eyes, ears, and precious time: Innumerable channels to choose from, DVRs, streaming Internet music and video, iPods, cell phones, and so forth.

So why are Bud, Coors, and Coke still on your TV? The answer: branding. In the case of Coors, the “cold” theme is the hook it hangs its brand on to make it memorable and to stay top of mind. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the product (any more than polar bears have to do with Coke), but it works, no?

Your own strategy with traditional media will depend on the size of the market you operate in, among other things. And viewed in terms of ROI — “I spent X on a TV campaign and I got Y number of phone calls” — chances are you will indeed find it too expensive.

But a consistent, ongoing branding strategy helps all your other marketing efforts. Consider: Why would someone click on your Google AdWords listing instead of clicking on the other 10 ads on the page? Because they’ve seen and heard your brand name consistently in other places, and that in itself builds trust. (It also does a good bit of the heavy lifting for your salespeople before they ever meet a prospect.) Chances are your budget won’t allow a campaign just for branding, but there’s nothing wrong with having branding and a call to action in the same spots.

Remember: Just because you don’t have the checkbook of Coke or Coors doesn’t mean you can’t share some of their strategy. And that’s the cold truth.

—Jim Rafferty, principal of JMRketing, provides outsourced marketing leadership to companies in the home improvement industry and beyond.

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