It's not very often that I take up a war metaphor. I'm a lover, not a fighter. However, when it comes to advertising, a strategic campaign is far better than random act. We might initially think of campaign as more of a political term, but it has it's origins in military use. An advertising campaign isn't like a political race; it's not a competition. An advertising campaign is war. That might sound harsh coming from a pacifist, but I think that the intended meaning of the word campaign might help us to better understand good advertising.
Campaign: (from the Latin campānia) a systematic course of actions for a specific objective
Let's begin at the end. Warfare has a specific objective. Even WWI was about something! The same should be true with advertising. Every piece of advertisement your company puts out must have a goal. It must serve a purpose beyond "to have some advertising." The purpose of your advertising then determines the type of advertising that you do. Ignoring the specific objective can be detrimental to the campaign.
Imagine with me, if you will, a company who has a promotion that they are running. They are overstocked in a product because they got it for a third of their normal cost. They can run a massive 25% discount on this product and still make profit hand over fist! They decide that it's worth spending the extra ad dollars to get their name out there. The logic is that if more people come in the store, more people will buy this product at its irresistibly low price.
This is not bad logic; however, there is a problem. "Getting their name out" is a term often used for Top of Mind advertising. It's goal is to place your brand as the default provider of a particular service or product. This does not align with the specific objective! The appropriate campaign is Promotional advertising! "25% off" and "Limited" should be front and center, and don't forget the address! Without taking into account the specific objective, the advertising potential is squandered.
The converse is true as well. If you want to be the first company that comes to mind in your field, tethering your brand to a single product (especially without an actual promotion) can hurt your business over time by pigeonholing you into one über-specific area. Beware of this if you often hear clients say, "I didn't know you did that."
I am often a big fan of Napoleon's two part battle plan.
Part one: Show up.
Part two: See what happens.
Of course, this plan didn't work very well at Waterloo, and it won't work well with advertising either. You need a plan—a more systematic plan than Napoleon's. Don't ask the question "What sort of ad should we do this month?" Instead, ask yourself the question, "How does this month's ad fit into our campaign." Remember that your ads can be a mighty force that helps your business accomplish its objectives, but your army needs a general.
But who has time for that, right? And maybe you don't, but you are the Commander and Chief; appoint a good general you can trust. (By the way, we're available.)
War is not an isolated incidence. Wars are won not with a single action but with many strategic battles. When armies go to war they literally set up camp right there at the battle field. Too often advertising is not approached with this reality in mind. Too often advertisements are standalone pieces that popup every now and then. They each have their own specific purpose (strategic plan even), but they do not pitch their tents or claim any ground. They are not military campaigns so much as they are ... well, terrorist attacks (to extend the violent analogy).
In our microwavable, stream-able, 140-character world it might seem counter intuitive to say that an advertising campaign should be on-going. It might seem that our culture no longer necessitates such repetition. After all, so the logic goes, we are able to take in more information now than ever. That much is true, but we retain far less than ever too. Our attention spans have gotten shorter.
I used to play a game on my phone called Draw Something. The concept was this: you had 30 seconds (or something like that) to draw some predetermined thing before your opponent had to guess what it was that you were trying to draw. It was very addicting. It seriously provided some of the most intense 30 second blocks of my life. The weird thing was that almost as soon as I closed the app and waited for the guesser I would completely forget the thing I had just drawn. I wasn't alone; my opponents experienced the same phenomenon.
Why? Because (as intense as it was) the experience wasn't long enough or important enough to make it into our long term memories. The incidences were too isolated. According to The Human Memory "Short-term memories can become long-term memory through the process of consolidation, involving rehearsal and meaningful association." Did you catch that? It involves rehearsal and meaningful association. As my 7th grade Sunday School teacher would tell me every week, "Repetition aids in learning." He was right, too. I don't remember anything else from that class, but I do remember that repetition aids in learning.
Shot in the dark advertising doesn't work. It doesn't win wars, and it doesn't get business. What wins the war is a strategic, targeted, ongoing campaign. But don't worry; when it comes to advertising, we are a well regulated militia. We can help you develop the campaign and design the ads they will help win your advertising wars. Do we want to form an alliance? Absolutely we do.