A brilliant creative concept is often at the heart of a great marketing campaign.
But sometimes the creative goes too far — and what seems like a breakthrough idea at the concept stage results in marketing that misses the target and confuses the audience.
Here are five signs a new marketing campaign is a little too creative to succeed and some tips for avoiding these mistakes in your smart marketing strategy.
When is a Great Concept Bad Advertising?
Advertising and marketing agencies strive to create fresh, clever ideas that grab the attention of the audience. It’s a tough job, especially when the product isn’t particularly interesting or sexy.
When the creative team nails it, the impact on brand awareness, brand preference, and sales is measurable.
But when there’s a creative misfire, the campaign doesn’t work and the marketer can pay a big price in wasted resources, lost sales, and market confusion.
How do you know if a campaign concept is on target? Here are five warning signs that a proposed campaign could be doomed to failure:
- A mismatch with the brand: Some ideas are very clever and attention-getting but have no relationship to the branding strategy. If an idea doesn’t feel like it’s something your customers would expect to see from your brand — and shaking up their perceptions of your brand isn’t your goal — trust your instincts and ask for another idea.
- Overshadowing the product: Some creative concepts are so strong that you remember the ad but forget the product. My favorite example is the Kevin Bacon ad for Logitech. The concept – a crazed Kevin Bacon fan played by Kevin Bacon – is hilarious, but the ad fails because the product gets lost. All you remember is Kevin Bacon.
- Genuine weirdness that has to be explained to be understood: Wacky and weird can be very effective in marketing (ads for Old Spice are great examples), but when the concept is so out there that you and your staff don’t get it until the agency explains it, be wary. In case it’s just you, ask others (especially customers) to review the ideas. If most people scratch their heads, move on.
- It’s only great in large sizes: What’s effective in a full-size or full-length ad might not work in a different format. More and more marketing is being viewed on very small screens. Before you sign off on a campaign, ask your agency to show you how the concept will be executed in every format and viewed on every type of device.
- Burying the call to action: Maybe it’s my bias as a direct marketer, but I can never understand creative approaches that downplay the call to action by hiding it in a forgotten corner or using a font size that’s too small. The phone number, website, or Facebook page the prospect must use to respond to the offer needs to be easy to find and easy to read.
Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy
The reason companies spend money on marketing is to sell products and services. The agency or creative team might love something that’s drop-dead clever, fanciful, or artistic, but if it doesn’t help sell, it doesn’t work.
Are there exceptions? Yes, if the goal of the marketing campaign is to introduce a brand and establish an image or persona in the market, or get prospects to see an old brand in a new light. I happen to love the Korean Air TV spots, which are fantastic dream sequences in Korean Air’s signature blue and white.
But more often than not, I believe marketing has to pass the test of practicality to work in a smart marketing strategy.
The next time you review a proposed campaign or concept, put yourself in the prospect’s place and ask these questions:
- Will this fit with what people expect of our brand?
- Will our customers and prospects get it?
- Can people easily read it?
- Will they know how to respond?
- Will they remember the ad for the right reason – because of its relationship to our product?