I have a theory that people don’t remember the average but instead recall the very good and the very bad. This means that a great deal of marketing work is often not remembered as it is not best in class. This doesn’t mean it has no value but it does reduce its value. Of course marketing departments don’t aim to be average. Instead they aim to do stand out work. So why is most work so average? If I look at the programs I have worked on that were just OK (and there were a few), then in many cases it boiled down to a few simple things:
1. Dummed down – all too often a great creative idea has the edge taken out of it in order to reduce the potential risks that idea creates. Sadly by removing the edge it becomes a less then memorable campaign.
2. Under resourced – I don’t just mean here that companies spend too little. Instead I mean that all to often great work is sandwiched in alongside large pieces of average work being done by the same company. If the resources of the average were reapplied to the great just imagine the difference it would make.
3. Trying to do too much – good campaigns will often be hijacked by all sorts of areas of a business. As a result the original focus of the campaign is lost. If other parts of a business want to jump on board a marketing campaign it is them that should adapt (within reason) and not the other way around.
4. Failure to learn from mistakes – too many companies ignore the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Even companies that bother to hold a post mortem after a campaign, will all to often ignore the lessons learned when creating a new campaign. Why?
5. Logic beats emotion – great marketing campaigns often have something that is illogical in the mix. Or at least an element that appears illogical or pointless. Take the recent Microsoft ads with Gates and Seinfeld. They are quirky and silly and have generated a lot of opinion both good and bad. Logic would have killed these ads a lot sooner than Microsoft did (apparently they are no more now). If they had made Seinfeld talk product features it is unlikely people would have talked about them. By avoiding talking about Microsoft for almost all of the advert and instead focusing on trying to connect with an audience, Microsoft made an honest attempt to connect with its audience. You can argue whether they succeeded or failed in this instance. To me they succeeded.
My concern with this issue is that I’d love to see more memorable PR work being done. As it stands I’m convinced people can easily recall bad PR and can recall, albeit to a lesser degree, great PR. That leaves a lot of work that probably penetrates the subconscious or affects a small community but goes largely unnoticed. Perhaps the best way to get people to do great PR though is to make them fear doing truly bad PR (See my poll on the right). Put another way, I think people should always ask “what do we need to do to do a better job this time?” They need to ask this at every step in the process.
One of the major tech companies is currently looking to put all of its marketing with one agency. It has currently asked two of the large agency groups to create an agency that will be dedicated to its business and handle all aspects of marketing from online advertising to research to PR. On paper the tech firm stands to do well out of this as the two agency giants tussle to offer the best value and brains. But to my way of thinking there are several issues that should concern a firm when they go down this path:
1. When you outsource all your marketing to one firm you are effectively signing them up for a VERY long time as switching is going to be even harder. So you had better be really sure you like the key people involved AND that that they will stay around.
2. The savings on the bigger pieces of the pie like advertising will likely be substantial but for the smaller pieces of the puzzle, lower cost will only mean lesser talent.
3. It will be tough to get people to work at this dedicated firm without throwing a lot of money at them (which seems to defeat the aim of the exercise). People who want to work at agencies typically do so because they want broad experience not to effectively work in house by having only one client.
4. One of the advantages of having an agency is that they work on other clients and are continually coming up with new thinking and new opportunities. These would likely dry up in a one agency scenario.
5. Integrated marketing has been around for ages and yet hardly anyone does it. Even those that do tend to have big areas where they make exceptions on the agency front. There has to be a reason why this approach hasn’t been adopted by all the major corporations around the world…
Now I know there are some who will say that I’m in no position to talk given we have a business that offer a global solution for clients. I’d argue that we only offer them PR and relevant research. We don’t try and offer them the entire solution.
When this tech firm makes its decision there will likely be a lot of speculation that others will follow. My suspicion is that some will watch to see how it works but I doubt many will immediately copy it.