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If Only Everybody Understood Facebook Like Apple Does

Stocks in this article: FB AAPL

Last week, at a Business Insider conference , Scott Monty, Ford's global digital/multimedia communications manager, cleverly stated:

What's the ROI of a TV commercial? What's the ROI of a press release? What's the ROI of putting your pants on every day? It's hard to measure but there's negative consequences for not doing it.

I agree. Let's take things a step further.

No company better illustrates my thesis than Apple.

I don't know what Apple thinks of Facebook. I can't go by Tim Cook's mysterious and guarded remarks at a conference or other rare public appearance. However, I know this -- Apple understands branding. As such, even though it might not have much use for it, Apple understands the power of Facebook's platform.

Post-Steve Jobs, it has stumbled a little (see the yanked Genius ad campaign), but a) the brand was built long ago; b) given the continued popularity of Apple's products, it will be tough to kill the brand overnight; and c) they're doing lots right (see the excellent iPhone 5 ads with the guy's thumb).

CNBC spoke to another Facebook executive. Brad Smallwood, the company's lead on measurement and insights, beat back something we can thank Google (GOOG) for, the notion that all that matters in Web 2.0 advertising is number of clicks.

Clicks do not build brands. Clicks do not translate into any type of effective long-term advertising, marketing or branding strategy.

Along similar lines, doing a Super Bowl ad does not necessarily morph into mega sales on Monday morning, particularly when you sell big-ticket items such as cars or are already a recognizable part of the dominant culture (e.g., Ford, GM, McDonalds).

Certainly, you'll get immediate ROI from Facebook or the Super Bowl if you tell the prospect, "Come to our Web site tomorrow morning and get $50 off of an iPod." That's easy. But it's certainly not something that will carry your company's image for decades.

Sales and snappy gimmicks don't work. It's about forging bonds with your target audiences. Speak to them. Make yourself a sustaining and relevant force in their lives.

Being where your key demos are -- on the Super Bowl, on Facebook, on Twitter -- keeps you relevant. It helps you build, hold onto and evolve mindshare. That's branding.

Like Monty at Ford says, you cannot put a price tag on this. You know its effective, not based on numbers and metrics they teach in marketing class, but because of intangibles. You cannot teach the stuff that makes great branding and marketing minds tick. They just know when things are clicking -- pun intended.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.
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