As a creative director at a creative agency, I am routinely faced with blank sheets of paper and empty whiteboards just begging for big ideas. This, I can handle. A harder proposition is being faced with a brand, business or organization that is looking for "something like this video" or "a little different version of that campaign." On one hand, this is a great way for marketing executives to convey a creative direction. On the other hand, the approach betrays the potential reach and impact that can be earned with a completely original online video, social media, interactive or integrated campaign.
Chasing the Dragon
Chasing the dragon is an expression most commonly associated with heroin or other drug use that describes a user's attempts to re-experience the thrill of their first high. Since we all aspire to achieve marketing success with each new product and service, the tendency is to study and follow those campaigns that have already been successful. There are two ways marketers chase the dragon.
• Chasing our own dragons: This occurs when we have had a successful marketing campaign and we look to recreate the magic. We tap into a formula we believe works and begin to repeat ourselves, never quite hitting the high of that first effort. Sequels are never as good as the originals.
• Chasing other dragons: When we see other campaigns do well, hit their goals and win awards, the tendency is to "want what they're having." This is also a safe way to pitch ideas to clients and bosses and get buy-in. That's not to say the campaign won't be effective, just not as effective. Remakes are usually not as good as the originals.
Beyond the sought-after awards and accolades that come from doing work that hasn't been done before, originality has practical marketing benefits.
1. Audiences like to share new things. Sharing means getting your brand message out there. Sharing means more people know about and care about what you're talking about. Sharing is what video and social media marketing are all about.
2. Original work garners more initial attention and is more talked about on industry trade publications and blogs and also in marketing publications. Discussion equals exposure. Exposure equals brand and product awareness.
3. New and different online video, social, interactive and integrated campaigns tend to require less budget to start the viral ball rolling. Audiences are quicker to discover and pass the brand message along.
4. By chasing creative dragons, you miss the opportunity to lead your target. By the time you have tried and executed a copycat campaign, the audience you were trying to hit has moved on.
Trendsitters and Trendsetters
There are two distinct categories of marketing executives and agency creatives that, as a result of external or internal forces, or situationally, approach new media marketing in very different ways. Trendsitters are the ones who stand guard with a watchful eye on what's working and what's not working. Their job is not to push the envelope, but rather to establish and maintain a status quo. Trendsetters are the ones that will keep trying new ideas, techniques and technologies. Some trendsetters will fail and some will win but more often than not, the wins will outweigh the fails.
Campaigns based on prior or competing campaigns still have immense value and not every campaign can or should be completely original. Simply being out there, engaging and interacting is a big step for many brands, businesses and organizations that are just entering the arena. However, if they truly want to get every bit of value from their marketing budgets, they would be well advised to stop chasing dragons.