Why “Making do” is not a campaign strategy

Posted by: Andy Weir - 21.01.21

Growing up in the eighties, one of my old school friends was a victim of the curse of the younger child. The hand-me-down school uniform. As a result, his blazer was always several sizes too big, while his trousers were always ankle-revealingly short. Thankfully, he was blissfully unaware of what an odd sartorial figure he cut.

It’s amazing what compromises we put up with without even realising.

And as in life, so in marketing. Why is it that many brand campaigns are rarely supported by brilliant strategy? Or accompanied by sparkling activation? The problem lies in the gap between big lead agency brand thinking and other specialist agencies with a more narrow focus. The result is a constant state of compromise that forces marketers to choose between having one or the other.

Why making do is not a campaign strategy

Making do with your campaign strategy

One of the problems of making do with your campaign strategy is that you don’t realise you’re doing it. Try asking yourself the following questions.

  1. What was your campaign objective?

Was it awareness, engagement or lead generation? Like a well-written essay every sentence should be able to clearly demonstrate how it answers that question and supports your objective. Is what your agency has produced doing that?

A comprehensive and straightforward campaign strategy will give you the peace of mind that the creative ideas your agency is developing are aligned with your strategy and will give you a yardstick by which to measure them.

  1. Are you considering the three Cs?

At Ride Shotgun, whether we’re working on brand activation or a strategic campaign strategy we still always revisit the marketing Holy Trinity: Customers, Competitor and Company to make sure our work is ticking all the right boxes.

  1. Customers: Do you know what your customers actually want or need? 

Does the creative work demonstrate why your customer should care? What need or motivation does the campaign address? Is it focused around how the brand answers a customer need or desire that has been clearly defined and agreed through strategy and insight?

If you can’t answer yes to all of the above, alarm bells should already be ringing.

  1. Competitors: Do you know what your competitors are doing?

Next, unless you know what the rest of your sector is up to you won’t know whether there are opportunities to create a point of difference, shout louder or talk differently. When you know whether your competitors are going right, you know it makes sense to go left. So, has your agency checked out the competition and drawn some conclusions for you?

  1. Company: Have you identified why your customers should choose you?

We often refer to Simon Sinek’s famous statement: “People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.” In other words, why you? What does your brand, business or company deliver for your customer? Does the messaging and creative credibly demonstrate how your brand can play a role in your customers’ lives?

So now you’ve covered the 3 C’s, what other questions should you be asking?

  1. Does your agency understand your customers?

Spare a moment to ask yourself whether your agency’s tactical ideas and creative concepts really do start with your consumers? More importantly, have they shown you exactly how and why they believe their creative will achieve the stand-out you’re looking for?

  1. Are your customer insights fresh? Or past their sell-by date?

Those trusty old customer insights you cut and paste into agency briefs can gradually become out of date. And 2020 in particular has been a year of dramatic change in how we all consume products and services.

There are quick wins for layering insight onto existing research. Any decent agency should be able to offer this through a combination of their own sector experience, search, desk research and the consideration of other large and environmental and economic impacts such as COVID-19. If your agency isn’t keeping pace with your consumers it may be time for a rethink.

  1. Are your agency’s ideas on-brand? Or off-kilter?

Your campaign should feel like another example of how your brand delivers on its brand promise or proposition. So we always like to make sure we’ve taken a look back at a client’s brand promise and reviewed our creative against it. Is it aligned and working together to be greater than the sum of its parts? Or is it more of a one-trick pony?

  1. Right place, right time?

With that in mind, have you ever been presented with some great brand activation work that’s creative, fun and aspirational… yet impractical and expensive?

So it’s worth checking how and where the campaign creative engages consumers on their customer journey. Unless this has been considered, the work is in danger of being a clever idea that misses its mark.

A good way to do this is using a classic 3-phase customer journey as simple as awareness, engage and convert. Sticking to fundamental principles like this helps us to make sure the purpose of the creative or content is aligned with your marketing objectives.

  1. Where are your customers looking? 

Knowing where else (and who else) your customers are considering is an invaluable tool for planning your strategy and finding the gaps your competitors aren’t covering. But how?

Okay, here’s a top insider tip. We use SEMrush, a brilliant tool that lets you know which of your competitors your (potential) customers are looking at. It will also show you how your website is performing and provide a ton of insight into the competition. You can use it to analyse your competitors’ traffic and keyword strategies, ads, content, and social media, as well as being able to report on any market or industry across 190 countries. Just don’t tell anyone else we told you about it.

Plug the gap

So, have you been making do with what you’ve got without realising there’s an alternative? What you need is an agency that brings big agency thinking, smart strategy and insight and agile, cost-effective delivery all together under one roof. Suddenly that compromise gap between creative, strategy and activation disappears.

How do we know all this? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? But if you’re curious, you know where we are.