There is a meme going around that seems to be gaining some traction among the marketing cognoscenti that suggests that the marketing campaign is dead. To wit:
Now, these are knowledgeable people, but I think we might be getting a bit too hasty in sweeping this foundation of marketing strategy under the rug.
Rather than accepting the convention that marketing campaigns are dead, I would like to reframe the conversation and, in the process, define what I believe the modern marketing campaign has evolved towards and outline why marketing campaigns, and the strategic thinking that goes into them, remains a pillar of the marketing art and science.
The concept of the marketing campaign, as a specific set of related activities, remains to serve a strategic purpose, and in particular, under the following operating conditions:
1.) Seasonality: businesses that have strong seasonal influences on sales have a strategic need to create discrete, focused campaigns during peak seasons – think allergy drugs during spring, sunscreen during summer, anything back to school in the fall, etc.
Marketers create campaigns with unique tactics and timelines to acknowledge and participate in the seasonal event, with the goal to capitalize on the increased conversations, raise awareness, and facilitate trial. Also, by crafting campaigns and measuring those campaigns individually, marketing KPIs aren’t skewed by the seasonality. If marketing can’t “take credit” for increased lead gen during seasonal spikes, then we shouldn’t be penalized for seasonal externalities, such as higher media costs, which will impact critical ROI KPIs.
2.) Event-based marketing: brands that launch campaigns aligned with events can not only capitalize on the increased conversations, but also gain positive goodwill by aligning with event’s brand. Even if a brand doesn’t place Super Bowl-specific media, but creates a themed campaign during that big game time, the brand can gain increased reach by participating in the campaign. (Of course, the brand relevance needs to exist around participating in the event.)
While I am defending the campaign, I will however, agree that the marketing campaign has been marginalized because of digital, and specifically, social media’s 24x7 cycle; this is always on marketing. So, in reframing the concept of the campaign, I debate the effectiveness of the campaign does exists, and when paired with always on marketing, there is a cumulative effect. The campaign has a new best friend!
The marketing campaign and always on marketing are two characters in the telling of the brand story. Always on marketing plays the “best friend character” - the Ethel to Lucy.
The characteristics of always on and Ethel are that they are interesting on their own and carry the plot along, but don’t overshadow the lead/Lucy. The marketing campaign is Lucy; the larger-than-life, life of the party, center of attention “lead character” that bursts into the scene and creates the story. Individually, the characters serve a purpose to the story, but their shared purpose is what powers the plot, and in the case of marketing, propels the brand forward.
In the marketing sense, always on has a goal to sustain the audience by initiating conversations WITH, not at, the audience. And, through that engagement, the audience will continue to grow.
Dedicated marketing campaigns, with the big idea and timely, relevant content, burst into the scene - grabbing attention, and creating buzz - earning engagement. The goal of the campaign is to exponentially grow the audience, both in terms of engagement and reach, and then it's always on's mission to sustain those increases achieved by the campaign.
Marketers, let’s embrace the campaign, get excited around the big idea, and plan for how the campaign will partner with always on to achieve a common goal - and enjoy the show!