When your company becomes so large and has so many customers that you need a branch of advertising devoted specifically to promoting and improving your image, that’s when you know you’re a corporation. And that, essentially, is what corporate advertising is.
Below we’ll discuss the ways in which corporate advertising can be applied, how to differentiate it from advocacy advertising and the different techniques and situations commonly employed. Anyone with corporate aspirations can stop faking it and start making it with this five-star course with 48 industry secrets on how to throw events to attract corporate sponsors and investors.
What Is Corporate Advertising?
We’re all familiar with the general aim of advertising: to sell things; namely, products and services. But more specifically, an advertisement usually features a specific product with relevant information that consumers presumably find enticing. For example, a new low price on the same fresh Subway sandwiches you know and love.
But when a company starts advertising an idea or mind-set that is directly to the company’s benefit, this is known as corporate advertising. It is less sales strategy than it is subliminal public relations. The most important and common things corporate advertising seeks to accomplish is building a company’s public image and reputation, especially if either has recently come under attack or if either “needs” re-building (think oil, coal, fast-food, etc.). It’s important to note, however, that corporate advertising isn’t just targeted at consumers or the general public, although this is by far the most popular use. Corporate advertising can also be used to promote one company’s standing within its respective industry. Businesses looking to explore new markets often need help. Having a strong reputation among other businesses and industry leaders can facilitate invaluable partnerships.
If you’re somehow still skeptical of the effectiveness of advertising (regardless or what it is trying to promote), you need to read this essential post on the importance of marketing and 10 reasons companies can’t afford not to market their business.
Benefits Of Corporate Advertising
Let’s talk about the benefits of advertising directed at consumers. An oil company, for example, cannot successfully market its product: oil doesn’t change, improve or really appeal to anyone in any way other than necessity. It’s a relatively stable good but also one that is incredibly difficult to market. The “green revolution” has made this even more difficult. Oil companies cannot advertise a car, boat or factory spewing emissions into the air and show the gleeful faces of the drivers and executives. That would utterly fail.
Instead, corporate advertising allows such a company to create successful ads with interest in the actual product (oil) being a byproduct of the advertising campaign. All the advertising has to accomplish is a sense of trust and respect among a population of consumers. Often these campaigns will focus on a company’s weakest points, or, to avoid drawing attention to them, it may focus on a completely unrelated but highly-esteemed idea or sector. In the case of the oil companies, Exxon has run campaigns in the past few years advocating its investments in education (maths, sciences (nothing to do with oil)) and the environment (to compensate for the fact that it’s a leading contributor to global warming).
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Vs. Advocacy Advertising
It’s easy to confuse corporate advertising with advocacy advertising. There are two key differences, however, and they are enough to distinguish the two methods completely:
- Advocacy advertising often has nothing to do with a company’s image. It is about spreading awareness and ideas about issues that are deemed important by the supporting company. For example, an environmental organization would use advocacy advertising to combat the oil companies, but would do so in a way that does not promote themselves. Or the companies that help launch political campaigns are all about supporting and promoting the candidate, but devote absolutely zero advertising space to themselves.
- Advocacy advertising does not try to sell a product, either directly or indirectly. Corporate advertising is all about selling products indirectly (an oil company that tries to create good faith and, therefore, customers). But advocacy advertising is not all good; in fact, it is only as good as the ideas it promotes, which can be anything.
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The methods of communicating corporate advertisements are familiar: television, print, online, radio, etc. But the content tends to be of a different nature. It is by no means exclusive to corporate advertising, but you are much more likely to see these methods here than anywhere else. If you’re interested in the various techniques advertisers use, check out this cool informative blog post on ways to advertise and promote a product or service.
It is very common for corporate advertising to offer insights or advice. “Did you know that levels of CO2 emissions . . . ?” or “Here are are five ways you can lower your electric bill . . . ” would be unsurprising approaches. These advertisements, in a way, act as little gifts or even products themselves for the consumers.
You should also be unsurprised to find announcements or recommendations to appear in corporate advertisements. For example, information regarding disasters, political decisions or other special announcements would likely be targeted to a specific population (those that are most affected by it).
Whereas conventional advertisements are often to-the-point and clearly in support of a product (think about Apple vs. Windows vs. Samsung ads), corporate advertisements are just the opposite: vague recommendations, such as a commercial that only references a company by ending with their logo. The ads bait you with good-samaratanism and then switch this out with a product or service.
If, on the other hand, you don’t want to mislead your customers and just want to provide a fun, insightful ad, refer to this free article on creative advertising ideas and cool outside-the-bix approaches.
When Corporate Advertising Pulls Its Weight
There are times when corporate advertising pulls its weight, and sometimes it can be a do or die situation. The most obvious case of this is when the company has made a potentially fatal error. Maybe they produced a product that ultimately lead to their consumers’ deaths, such as GMs “recent” fiasco. While we have yet to see how GM tries to recover (they have already appointed a woman as the first CEO of a major auto company, stressing the fact that she is a mother and understands the degree of tragedy involved (as if a father or any other human being is incapable of an acceptable degree of remorse)), but undoubtedly it will come, probably in the form of safety messages and advertised donations to important life-saving research. Similarly you can always expect to see environmental efforts after an oil spill, new technologies after an airplane crash, the greater good of the U.S. military when a war is going poorly, etc.
Mergers are also a key time when corporate advertising comes into play. Take the American Airlines merger. American and US Airways, both of which are struggling airline companies, recently merged and had take a number of things into account: how amenable will customers be who favored one company over the other, how will frequent flier miles transfer, how will the merger benefit loyal customers, etc. The details were far more extensive than what I just mentioned, but to cover all of these things American needed to simply restore confidence and good-faith. In the case of American, they used a campaign designed around the idea of, “Building a new America. Together.” They did, ultimately, advertise themselves, but anyone who remembers their commercials remembers that the advertisements were not directed as a specific product or service. They were about people and, for lack of a better word, majesty (if such a thing can exist in an airline company).
It’s easy to forget that corporate advertising, like traditional advertising, can be just as effective at a local level. Even an international corporation can use local advertising to a great advantage, especially in highly populated local areas (big cities). You can see how many of the things discussed above can be easily translated to a local level. A corporation such as Exxon could start a clean-air initiative in New York City. While it might not reach as large an audience, it will be particularly effective to its local population for the obvious reason that people take more of an interest in things that affect them directly.
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