Momentum Marketing

In Season 6, Episode 8 of "Mad Men," Don Draper explains to his creative team that the implicit bargain of advertising is free entertainment in exchange for listening to a sales message.

This is a reductive analysis (by a fictitious character, no less), but it’s fairly correct. Historically, advertising and marketing have been, for the most part, disruptive forces. Like when you’re trying to watch a TV show and get interrupted (perhaps ironically) by the commercial break. Such content was not asked for, and is generally not wanted, so it better be damned entertaining if your audience is going to stay on the couch and watch.

And that’s the thing: it’s usually not that entertaining. As a result, we have learned through experience that commercials, pop-ups, banner ads, junk mail, etc. are things to be ignored the vast majority of the time. We have been culturally trained to tune out the white noise. (When John Wanamaker famously said that he was wasting half the money he spent on advertising, his math was probably too optimistic.)



Trying to force your message into the noisy marketplace, especially on a small media budget, has a high risk of failure. To make things even more difficult, modern consumers are hard to pin down; they're constantly in motion -- traversing different spaces, utilizing different media, and as always, experiencing a range of different thoughts and feelings throughout any given day.

If you want to move people, you have to become a part of their journey. 

As we move forward as marketers, our first thought should no longer be about disruption. Instead, we should consider ways that we can leverage the existing momentum of target consumers. By doing so, we can organically guide them where we want them to go -- with minimum waste and maximum efficiency.

Imagine a project manager sitting at her desk, right around noon, listening to Pandora on her mobile. She's starting to get hungry when -- boom: a dual-pronged message comes through from Restaurant X, a national chain (your client). The “radio” message tells her that lunch specials are available today, at a location just down the street. Even better, she can get directions and a coupon right now just by tapping the display ad on her phone.

Or picture a high-school athlete who is looking online for a competitive edge. He searches “best running shoes” and comes across a one he’s never heard of before: Sneaker Y (your client’s product). He clicks through to see branded messaging on the shoe, a series of compelling testimonials, and a link to where he can purchase his first pair now and receive an automatic, exclusive, 15-percent discount.

Or consider a grad student who is in-market for her first new sedan. She’s weighing the pros and cons of several models when she sees a friend’s pin posted on a board called “Things I Love.” It’s an image of the 2013 Sedan Z (your client’s product). The pin links out to a product landing page where she can view specs, see the car in different trims/colors, read Facebook posts from fans, watch a TV spot (via YouTube), etc.

See where this is going?

This is the next evolution of strategic communications, and it’s called Momentum Marketing. It’s an approach that blends strategy and creative to discover where your best targets are, connect with them in stride, warm them to your brand, and guide their momentum in your direction.

Momentum Marketing has many facets. But at the simplest level, it’s about challenging your marketing strategy by asking this litmus-test question at each touchpoint: “Would the typical person in my target audience welcome this message?”  If the answer isn’t an emphatic yes!, then go back to the drawing board. Because the era of Don Draper’s unilateral bargain is over. To do Momentum Marketing well, the content must never be a mere cloud of smoke through which you sneak your sales message; it should be, rather, the entire point.


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