Marketers are in love with big, flashy marketing campaigns. They cross their fingers and hope that decision makers demand to see something extravagant because complex and expensive campaigns feed their egos and make them -- not the brand or product itself -- the stars of the show.
But ultimately, big and flashy campaigns rarely pay out -- at least, not well enough to justify the cost. They amount to a risky, expensive bet that only the world's biggest international brands can afford to take.
Disney, for instance, scored a huge hit with its ubiquitous promotion and cross-promotion of the new Star Wars movie. But Disney has millions of brand loyalists all over the world who are ready to engage and spread the word.
Most brands don't have those kinds of assets, nor can they afford the kind of marketing blitz this approach requires. Or they might think they can afford it today, but they won't be able to sustain the campaign if the company stock drops tomorrow.
Big campaigns go bust
If you succumb to the pressure and invest in a big Super Bowl ad-campaign launch, you're giving yourself one big deadline, and ready or not, everything has to be perfect. If your servers crash because of all the game day traffic, you've just wasted your money.
Even if the campaign goes off without a hitch and results in an instantaneous spike in sales, then what? If sales increase only during the expensive campaign, that doesn't get you anywhere because the campaign is unsustainable. And as soon as the campaign ends, so will those extra sales. This is not a long-term strategy.
More times than not, big and flashy marketing offers a lot of sizzle but not much steak.
Why slow and steady wins
Slow and steady might not be sexy, but it certainly wins the race. This classic metaphor for the tortoise and the hare absolutely applies to marketing: Good marketing isn't about winning the current fiscal quarter; it's about building a brand and putting it in a better position to grow over time.
The slow-and-steady approach lets you continually monitor and optimize all areas of your pipeline, making adjustments along the way. Without a do-or-die moment, you have the capacity to be comprehensive in your preparation and position yourself for success. With today's tight budgets, this is a big selling point for clients.
So, how do you implement the steady approach? It's all about being practical. The question to ask is: Are your marketing efforts strategic to the brand? Ensure they are by using these two methods:
Start with the end in mind
This principle is put forth by "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" author Stephen Covey. Before you give a brief to an agency, make sure it covers all the brand's needs and outlines what must happen in order for the program to be considered a success -- and I'm not talking about winning a marketing award. Think more along the lines of earning additional client business, referrals, renewed contracts, and a long list of glowing testimonials to post on your website.
This is critical: If you don't know where success lies, then you can't develop a program to be successful.
Clarify your return-on-investment measures
When we work with clients, my company always asks, "What needs to happen for you to get a promotion after the program is over?" Phrasing the question that way cuts directly to the real needs of the campaign. And believe me, providing results that turn our clients into heroes who earn promotions is much better than winning awards.
Defining the right measures of ROI depends on your brand's specific needs at this point of its life. Does the brand need social media buzz to garner more awareness and attention, or should it aim to encourage more trials and sampling to get the product in the hands (or mouths) of consumers? Deciding on the desired outcome before developing the campaign is paramount to its success.
Slow and steady is a different marketing mindset of playing the long game, focusing intently on the customer, and continuously working to grow and improve a brand. Good marketing isn't a stopgap or a Band-Aid; it's a machine that needs to run all the time.