The costs of inaction are potentially high. But the courage to stand by an idea you believe in could be validated over the long term.
Developing an integrated marketing campaign is a bit like concocting a magic potion. There are lots of ingredients to toss into the pot, and finding just the right balance is the name of the game. Blend them together just so and the result is an elixir. Too heavy or light with this ingredient or that, and you wind up with a witch's brew.
But finding the right formula is tricky, especially when two of your required elements are squarely at odds with each other but equally necessary.
ROI (define) is marketing's dominant theme currently, but my sense is that speed is the next big trend. That's because the ability to read and respond to changing market conditions in something approaching real time can become a source of competitive advantage.
The speed at which we're able to access information has far outpaced the speed at which we can respond to that knowledge. We know we have to do something long before we can actually do it. That slowness used to be simply a frustration. But in an economic environment like the one we're in, the opportunity cost of slowness has become unacceptable.
The move toward rapid response won't go away with the recession, either. Just as the recession will leave an enduring mark on consumer attitudes and behaviors, the need to be faster will become the new normal for marketers. In the long term, we'll see marketing organizations revamp their operations and culture so they can consistently, intelligently course-correct during a campaign. But we're not there yet. Today about the only thing that can be done in real time is to cancel programs if the sales numbers don't look good.
On the other hand, patience can be just as critical an element to success as speed. Value isn't created overnight; some ideas, even great ideas, need time to take hold. Lots of good ideas are killed too quickly because the pressure to drive results right this second means we just can't wait. We have to do something, so we switch horses.
But patience really can pay off. Take a look at the Whopper Freakout campaign, which just won the 2009 Grand Effie and was credited with increasing Whopper sales. Clearly a patient team was guiding this campaign. The most direct path to increasing sales might have been an offer or price-driven campaign, but this campaign took the long, conceptual road there, forcing consumers to confront the idea of a Whopper-less world.
Not to mention, the campaign anchor was an eight-minute online video. It may not seem like a gutsy move today now that we know how well it worked, but think what it was like to respond to the business challenge of increasing Whopper sales by running an unusually long Web video. It's an approach that asked a lot of consumers: their time. It was an approach that believed, correctly, that the message would spread and catch on. I'd guess that there were some anxious moments when the campaign got started, but they saw it through and their faith in the idea was rewarded.
Blending Speed and Patience
There may well come a day when the real-time data we receive is so accurate that it can drive decisions about when to pull the plug on an idea, but we're not there today. Reality is, most marketers have access to lots of information about what is happening immediately but don't have a reliable way to judge why in real time.
Sales may not be increasing quickly enough, but that doesn't necessarily mean a new approach is the answer. The answer might just as well be that the right approach is in place but needs more time to deliver. It's a judgment call, where marketing skill and instinct come into play.
The costs of inaction are potentially high. But the courage to stand by an idea you believe in could be validated over the long term. Speed and patience are both needed. A good position to be in would be to have the operational prowess to be able to respond immediately to the marketplace but the guts not to if you think an idea needs time to catch on.