Does the marketing industry lack critical thinking?

Originally Published in: Campaign US

May 10th, 2018

Much can go wrong when a campaign is not thought through…here are three ways to stop that happening

I am a delicious can of refreshing brown fizzy liquid. I wear a blue, red and white metal jacket and sit in vending machines and supermarket fridges worldwide, waiting to be bought and consumed. I face fierce competition to be picked though; my main rival, who is also brown, fizzy and delicious, is a best-selling soft drink with a red jacket. I need to do something to stand out from the crowd.

Stay with me.

I am a marketing executive with an in-house team of creatives and we want to shift some of our delicious brown, fizzy liquid. We’re thinking for our next ad, we’ll get a young celebrity to feature in it and focus on a hot topic, like a protest. It might be a good way to go to show we are progressive, young and relevant. It’ll set us apart from our competition, it’ll ruffle a few feathers and make people want to buy our cans of delicious, fizzy, brown liquid.

Keep going.

I am a hip teenager (don’t go anywhere!) and I’m thirsty. I’ve just seen an ad that has tried to align itself positively to a racial and political movement, but missed the mark. I wasn’t sure I wanted some brown, fizzy liquid, but now I’ve seen the ad, I fancy a delicious brown, fizzy drink, although I don’t want to align myself to that brand, so I’ll go for the red can.

We all know what went wrong with Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad in 2017 which led to a social-media backlash and for it to be ranked the worst ad of the year.This is just one example of what can happen when a campaign is not thought through. But does the marketing industry as a whole lack critical thinking?

There is no doubt that competition is fierce and marketers need to do everything they can to create impact, but if they lack critical thinking in the planning stages, their campaigns run the risk of causing offence or falling flat entirely.

Here are three ways to incorporate disciplined thinking into digital campaigns:

It’s about the creative, but then again, it’s not

Take off your marketing/planning/operational hat and be yourself. What do you remember about the last ad you saw online? If it was where it was placed, chances are you’re not thinking beyond you as a marketer/planner/operator executing for a client. A majority of the time, the lasting memory for a consumer is the creative they just saw, rather than where they saw it. Think about the damage you could be doing to a brand if your creative is hastily cobbled together and what the consumer remembers is a cheap looking 300 x 250 image, even if it’s placed on Vanity Fair or The Guardian.

A digital campaign must complement the total campaign – digital creative can’t be the afterthought.

Get to know your KPIs

We are creatures of habit – marketers, consumers, humans. It does us all some good to re-evaluate what we’re doing with our lives every now and then. When you look at end objectives and measurement, think about where you currently measure and what it means to your brand. What is it you are trying to achieve? Do you really want to see how many people will click on an ad or do you want to create a more positive brand image and drive ROI?

Get to know what the real value of your KPI is. We market to people, so select metrics that are human – think about exposure time, engagement, brand recall, awareness and form completions rather than the usual metrics, such as clicks and impressions.

Balance data with emotions

Being a critical thinker means reflecting on a situation before jumping straight in. Data is incredibly important in giving us a direction to focus; for devising future plans and saving money and time on potential wasted avenues. However, while data points are vital for campaign justification, it’s important to avoid oversimplification. Ask questions and be open-minded as to why results have turned out as they have. While data can give us some insight into consumer mindsets, it can’t currently give us the full picture. We may work in a digital world, but we’re dealing with real-life people with real-life emotions. It’s our responsibility to create campaigns that are compelling, memorable and appropriately measured.

Written by:

Veerle De Lombaerde

COO, North America The Exchange Lab

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