THE BATTLE AND THE WAR: BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE CAMPAIGN STRATEGY

Dave Corlett
13 December 2018

Meet Les Binet and Peter Field.

(You’ve probably heard of them, but in case you don’t recognise them, Les is on the right and Peter on the left).les binet and peter field

You’ve probably heard of them because they’ve been researching marketing effectiveness for over a decade. Tom Roach, BBH’s Managing Partner of Performance, describes them as the Godfathers of Effectiveness. Binet recently joined creative agency Adam & Eve DDB as Head of Effectiveness.

Basically, effectiveness is their thing. I hope I’m making that clear.

Back in 2013, Binet and Field released a somewhat seminal report called THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT.

To achieve optimum return on investment, says the report, marketers should invest 60% of budgets into long-term brand-building, and 40% in short-term sales activation.

However, according to a much more recent survey by the IPA and ISBA, the report has had little impact in the last five years.

It found that 75% of marketers agree that short-term tactics currently take priority over longer term objectives at their organisation. Just 14% “strongly agree” that their objectives have a long-term focus.

A chart showing brand building vs awareness driving examples

WHY HAVE MARKETERS BECOME SO SHORT-TERMIST?

It’s quite simple.

These days, sales activation campaigns are much easier to measure than long-term KPIs. Those around the boardroom table want to see evidence of results. So marketers focus on the tactics that can be easily measured.

This is further backed up by the IPA/ISBA report. It outlines how none of the finance chiefs surveyed “strongly agreed” that the marketing objectives they sign off are long-term. On the flip side, 50% said they sign off short-term plans.

Andrew Baxter, CEO of Publicis Australia, sums the problem up better than I ever could:

“Short-termism is one of the biggest traps CEOs and CMOs have fallen into in the digital age. It produces strategies that deliver results that satisfy the half-yearly reporting cycle rather than the long-term. The immediacy of digital activation campaigns has meant there’s an easy lever to pull for the many executives who have been under pressure to deliver in the short term.”

Powerful stuff. So how can marketers redress the balance between brand-building and driving sales?

A CAMPAIGN STRATEGY THAT WINS THE BATTLE AND THE WAR

An intelligent, well-balanced campaign strategy is one that is built to win both the short-term battles, and the long-term war.

Braveheart and his mates shouting really loudly and holding big sticks               (image: Medievalists.net)

This diagram from another Binet and Field/IPA report emphasises the importance of getting this balance right. Once again, it shows how too much focus on short-term measures can hinder growth.

A chart showing brand building vs awareness driving examples

But where does the embattled marketer, under pressure from finance chiefs on one side and retail partners on the other, begin to create such a plan?

1. Pick your battles

Marketers need to start by identifying their key selling periods. It makes sense to embark on a sales-driving push when your customers are most likely to be considering a purchase.

Someone with a bank card about to pay for something on a contactless machine

It also helps to strengthen the business case for your 60/40 split. If you’re putting 60% of your spend into brand-building, that remaining 40% needs to work as hard as it possibly can.

2. Win hearts and minds

That goes both for internally and externally.

The first battle you’ll probably have is an internal one. After all, your finance colleagues need to be suitably convinced by any long-term brand-building initiatives if they are to start signing them off.

So check out this brilliant IPA Effworks presentation on building bridges with finance departments around marketing effectiveness.

Externally, the key to building both long-term fame and short-term success is pleasure. Deliver consistently positive experiences, and people will remember you and – whether it’s now or in the future – buy from you.

This can be achieved by building your strategy around four pillars…

educate, entertain, inspire, convince

What’s the best way to employ each of these? I’ll come onto this in a second…

3. Choose your weapons.

The tactics you use for each of your campaigns across the year will obviously differ according to your objectives. But which ones are more suited to sales activations vs brand building?

Swiftly back to those four pillars. Cast your eye to the corners of this chart…

Empty chart

If you want to drive sales, inspire and convince your audience.

If you’re looking to create (in the words of Binet and Field) “mental brand equity” and influence future sales, then entertain and educate them.

Here’s the chart again, populated with all your favourite campaign tactics:

Full chart

Simply mix, match…and measure.

4. Test, measure, learn, repeat

As even the most battle-hardy generals know, it’s all well and good having a solid plan on paper. But out on the battlefield it’s a fluid situation, full of moving parts and shifting sands.

A load of bears in a comedy battle scene

It’s not all that different out there in the consumer retail environment. Maybe a few less bears. But the landscape is changing on a constant basis.

So it’s imperative to work closely with internal teams and external partners to track and monitor everything that can be measured, and use the data to not just inform what comes next, but also tweak the plan if needs be.

“Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively.”
Sun Tzu

What, I hear you cry! You blamed our damaging short-termist mentalities on a misguided focus on measurement!

Yes, but everything that can be measured really does mean everything. Not just sales figures, engagement and all those shiny Google Analytics metrics. Net Promoter Scores, brand sentiment, brand recall…all the classics of long-term brand building.

5. Reach for the barbell

The average marketer’s first 60:40 campaign plan will inevitably be fuelled by a combination of insight (what’s worked previously) and intuition (what they feel will work in the future).

The shrewd marketer will add in a micro-droplet of something else: risk (what might work, and might not). But not too much. Deploying too many shiny new weapons or bold tactics at the expense of tried and tested ones is a little too risky.

Peter Griffin dressed as a clown, with some army guys

So why the barbell? Enter Will Lion, Managing Director of Strategy at BBH Labs, and his brilliant blog post on how employing ‘Seneca’s Barbell’ (a 90% safe/10% risk strategy) for Audi paid off with an IPA Effectiveness Award.

IPA…effectiveness…you can see how these things are all stringing together nicely.

THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE APOCALYPSE

Before you hop on your trusty steed and ride off into battle, I can’t emphasise enough just how important it is to build your strategy around those four pillars.

Entertain and educate using mass media or tactics with a broad reach, to drive awareness and make people feel warmth and relevance towards your brand and products.

Inspire and convince with targeted, personalised activations that compel them to purchase.

But crucially, it’s not imperative to think of them in isolation. Tactics like gamified experiences can drive sales whilst entertaining participants. Video tutorials are proven to significantly increase purchase consideration, especially in the beauty sector. Yet they’re primarily an educational tactic.

The key is to mix and match, test and measure, learn and tweak.

And repeat.