Reports Of The Death Of The Campaign Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

We hear the proclamation of the death of the campaign regularly these days. The charge is primarily led by the hoards of self-proclaimed social media gurus, but underscores a similar mantra -- from a larger swath of the marketing community -- of the death of the "big idea."

Make no mistake about it; the media and marketing world is changing in some fairly dramatic ways. However, the pronouncement of the material displacement of the old by the new has more hyperbole and shock value than reality. Traditional media and the fundamentals of marketing are alive and kicking, and evolving right along with all of us. Understanding this evolution is the key to successful marketing.

Campaigns and Social Media

Social media is not about campaigns. True. Social media is about consumer relationships.

Some so-called experts would lead you to believe that campaigns are the antithesis of an always-on experience. This could not be further from the case. Campaigns are a vital component in an always-on environment.



Of course, social media does require an ongoing commitment to continuous, day-to-day community management. However, with engagement rates in the low single digits (see “The Social Media Spiral of Unengagement”), basic social media communication will only go so far before blending into the background and becoming marginalized. You risk your social media pages becoming cluttered broadcast channels with minimal engagement, interest and impact.

So what’s the solution? Marketers must develop experiences and features that provide compelling reasons for consumers to interact with their brands. While some of these features can be evergreen, most will have a clear campaign cycle, allowing for maximum impact across the social graph over and over again. These social media activities must be promoted both within and outside the social channel. “If you build it, they will come,” rarely proves to be a worthy strategy.

Campaigns may be more relevant and necessary today than ever before. Consumers are desensitized. Social media is by definition dynamic and splintered, and consumer attention is scarce, maybe even more so in social media than anywhere else.  The pulses of marketing activities help to break through the clutter and recapture attention, drive engagement, and help to influence and/or preserve consideration and mindshare of our brands. Brands that are successful in social media maintain a baseline of ongoing community management, punctuated by campaigns that drive engagement with interactive features that keep consumers involved with the brand.

The Definition of “Campaign” is Evolving

While campaigns are not dead, in a broader context, the concept of what a campaign is and how to execute one has indeed changed. Marketers are in the process of creating new molds that mirror the changes in consumer media behavior. The efficacy of the old mold -- the conversion of "the big idea" of yesteryear into fairly regimented campaigns supported by big media -- is being challenged daily.

Big brand ideas are alive and well. Only the execution has changed to be more agile, nimble, and iterative. The ability to translate a big brand idea into an aggregation of small, effective tactical campaigns that take advantage of the unique attributes of each medium may just prove to be the biggest idea of them all.



2 comments about "Reports Of The Death Of The Campaign Have Been Greatly Exaggerated".
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  1. Joshua De La Mata from Out There - International Media Agency, December 6, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.

    Great piece here! I agree, the definition of campaign will continue to evolve; and love the way you close the article with

    "The ability to translate a big brand idea into an aggregation of small, effective tactical campaigns that take advantage of the unique attributes of each medium may just prove to be the biggest idea of them all."

  2. Jon Steinberg from BuzzFeed, December 7, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.

    Jason - I agree with your post. Campaigns are important, as brands introduce time-sensitive initiatives around product launches or themes.

    We've seen brands on BuzzFeed approach nearly "always on" by stringing together campaigns. What can become challenging is when the planning cycle creates complete dead periods between campaigns.

    We're hoping in the coming years to see "maintenance" levels of social seeding and interaction sustain between campaigns - for the brand that are pleased with a given platform and plan to "go live again" in the next quarter.

    Otherwise traction and awareness can be lost. So perhaps another track of campaign can evolve, that runs at a continuous low-level 12 months a years with bursts at strategic points. Brands should have the option to terminate the "always on" portion of the buy if they're unhappy, just as they choose whether or not to buy the next campaign on a given platform.

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