Why Campaign Thinking Is Limiting You

Why Campaign Thinking Is Limiting You

How many times do you see a brief that involves a single campaign in isolation? This is probably the standard way of working for many marketing departments, and also the default position for a lot of advertising agencies. In this guest post, MD of International Creative Services Anne Miles thinks it’s time to think beyond the campaign.

Anne Miles
Posted by Anne Miles

Whilst there are valid times for a specific campaign, there are some good reasons not to think ‘campaigns’; at least automatically. Think about how you buy in the supermarket for a moment.

If you go to the shops thinking about a meal at a time, how would you fill your trolly and where would you shop for those supplies? What would it cost you if you added up the spend over the year?

Alternatively, if you were to think about how to best care for your family over the long term, what would you then buy and where would you shop for it?

Here are some good reasons to rethink the campaign formula.

1. Cost effectiveness

Buying your media and creating content that is part of a long term solution provides cost efficiency in rates, which is obvious, but also there is cost benefit in consolidation of the strategic decisions, and channel selection.

A good way to determine the best cost efficiencies is to ask yourself what is the business problem, and what is the best way to achieve it over the long term. From there the content and channel strategies fall into place. If you think of a campaign only then you are stuck in the traditional model of ‘advertise = sales’, and the cycle is stuck relying on big media spend each time to sustain the results.

To do a decent job of supporting a once off campaign is likely to cost you more than a long term strategy with some seasonal spikes in activity and content messaging.

Think about a typical seasonal event that a traditional agency or marketing department would focus on. Let’s say you have $2M to spend. It is very likely that the automatic reaction of many is to pump a bunch of cash into TV, print, outdoor or maybe cinema. Yep, that often works the best for the brand, but is it really even questioned?

The issue is not so much about whether these media channels are valid channels, but more that they are not even questioned and alternatives don’t even come to mind. They have become the automatic reaction to the point that many in the industry think this is ‘normal’.

Ask yourself a different question – If you had that same $2M to spend to solve the business problem over the long term, would you choose the same strategy and media channels? Often not.

Marketing departments don’t always have the time to think beyond the status quo, and often agencies have vested interests in the solutions they recommend too. Media companies that buy up certain channels for the year need to offload this and, perhaps, not so much with the clients’ best interest in mind.

Yes, many of the bigger media agencies buy en masse to maximise their buying power, but who says that getting the wrong solution at a great price is best for business?

If you were to build an audience that could stay with you, and even passionately share your brand for you, then you are improving cost efficiencies over time, helping your marketing budget go much further. Many of the CRM strategies and even re-targeting strategies are the most cost effective.

If you spent your marketing budget across an ‘always on’ strategy, could that do more for you over the long term than a few spikes through the year?  Of course some products and services are seasonal and a spike here and there is necessary to respond to market conditions, but is this at the cost of a longer term vision and ultimately meaning the business is under-cooking in the long run? Short term gains versus long term gains, is the weigh up required.

Add the cost of your campaign activity together over 12 months and see where you get to. Look at how you could use it differently to build your brand and create your own proprietary audience in order to have long term and loyal relationships with these customers.

The cost to retain a customer is always much less than acquiring a new one. The cost of up-selling or cross-selling to an existing audience always cheaper than acquiring a new one. The cost of a referral or a share by a loyal customer is unbeatable.

2. Beat the market timing

It seems that often the campaign burst concept fits in with other competitors all competing for the same airtime and audience attention. What if you were to consider a long term strategy that meant you had loyal customers BEFORE this peak period?

You’d have the upper hand and be there early, without having to compete so hard in the expensive traditional media peak times either.

A boost in spend over this time does the job of reinforcing your leading position rather than being a new starting point to build from scratch each time. This is less expensive at the very least, but potentially goes further when you need it.

Having loyal customers mean you can maximise the timing, even pre-launch or tease an upcoming seasonal need; possibly even pre-sell before release. Customers feel special, and if you make it easy with the technology or the solutions they’re very likely to take up the opportunity before the standard cycle for the ease and simplicity of your strategy.

3. Build your brand, not an event

There is no question that promoting a product or seasonal service does the job of supporting the overall brand in a kind of ‘halo’ effect beyond the short term campaign, and the cost efficiencies in ongoing activity is achieved across multiple channels beyond this campaign peak. It is a matter of balance and tracking results really tightly.

With software services available to track offline and online activity now, there is the ability to fine tune; like diagnostic equipment on a race car to maximise the peak performance.

Marketing is both an inexact science and also becoming tightly measurable and accountable in most channels now. Some will argue that it can’t be exactly tracked, but the overall activity can be measured against sales results no matter what, right? There is always a cause and an effect – that’s a basic science we can’t avoid.

There is a point where the spend is paying off, regardless, or it isn’t. Traditional thinkers will say that there is no way to measure ‘brand’ and therefore a cost to support the brand is intangible. Perhaps at start up phase this is true and important, but at some point the marketing needs to pay for itself or the business will go backwards fast.

What if things were flipped around? With long term strategies, the halo effect can be applied to the short term activity  where the relative, major expenses are.

4. Break the silos

Fully integrated marketing is the over-used catch phrase of the decade, but is still the Holy Grail. Brands are desperate to solve this problem and with the industry full of siloed creative suppliers and a lack of clarity about service delivery from a lot of the industry suppliers (digital agencies in particular, right?!).

The issue is that not many are really working on behalf of the client. Many well meaning suppliers do have a passion to do the right thing, and do a great job, but are they really capable of looking beyond their own service capabilities and their own limitations?

5. Don’t just see what we want to see

Psychology comes into this. Our Reticular Activating System (RTS) is one of the most important parts of our brain and responsible for decision making and processing information. Just for a moment think about those times when you think about buying a certain car, and then that week all you see is that car everywhere on the roads.

The truth is they were always there, but you didn’t process the information because it wasn’t relevant to you at the time. In a service capacity we then can do the same, and only come up with solutions for our clients based on the relevance to our own situation and business offering.

This is sound (enough) some of the time, of course, but what if you could remove this filter and truly look for the most effective solutions for the brand without bias? This requires completely agnostic thinking without any affiliations or restrictions on service offerings.

Whilst there are many sound campaigns utilising the more traditional media channels and creative strategies, the issue is to just be sure we’re not on auto-pilot and doing the same old thing without consideration of the broader business need.