Stop Running Campaigns, Start Creating Ecosystems

The vernacular of the marketing campaign -- implying that consumers and brands are at war against each other -- is antiquated. Advertising shouldn’t exist if its goal is to simply influence and manipulate consumers into short-term purchases. Most people are too smart to fall for that anymore, but more importantly, it only serves the brand’s short-term interests.

 Every Message Has a Time Limit

Instead, modern marketing must exist to benefit the brand, the customers, and the world at large. Very rarely does one message, one piece of content, one execution, do that.

Even if you can write prose like Bob Dylan, command an audience like Rihanna, and have access to every media amplification tool imaginable, every message has a time limit. Our challenge is instead to orchestrate hundreds of messages. Some of that content originates from your brand, but the majority starts with your consumers. And much of your success will rely upon how your consumers are amplifying and talking about your messages.



If Not Campaigns, Then What?

So, what should replace campaigns, given the realities of modern marketing? The answer is ecosystems. In their simplest form, these are organic biological communities. But they also respond to outside forces. Tactically, the ecosystem method requires a holistic approach that blurs the lines between owned, organic, and paid.

It means breaking down the walls between media, creative, experiential, influencer, and public relation, building long-term partnerships with content creators, adding customer value at the point of sale, and collaborating with like-minded brands to delight your community.

Cultivating Your Ecosystem

Our job as marketers is to uplift the communities we interact with. First, we need to understand ALL facets of an ecosystem, not just the needs of the most valuable. Second, we need to know how, why, and at what pace, we can promote behavioral changes without disrupting the delicate balance.

If an ecosystem is dealing with a crisis, no amount of brand messaging will break through. Pause and help fill the sandbags. But if conditions are in relative homeostasis, gently interject into the conversation, adding value. Help the ecosystem grow, and you will become a welcome part of the community.

Look Beyond the Next Quarter

The imperative for the next generation of CMOs is to move away from the short term: the next earnings call, the next monthly report. This obsession with quarterly earnings pushes us away from developing ecosystems and back to the campaigns of yesteryear. It pushes us to treat our customers as commodities instead of partners. And it does real damage to your brand, and thereby the ecosystem.

To make this shift, you must develop reliable metrics of success. Leading indicators of interest -- in lieu of hard sales -- need to be sold to the C-suite.

We know the clarion call of revenue is likely too much to move away from completely. But the gradual shift away from campaigns does need to happen, and it’s time to take concrete steps to preserve your place in your customers’ ecosystems.

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