You just started an advertising campaign with great expectations, not to mention with a sizable investment. Much to your dismay, the days pass and your campaign is greeted with an eerie radio silence. Do you give it more time, or do you cut and run?
How long do you stick with an advertising campaign that seems to be floundering? This is an important and fair question, which can only be answered after taking a combination of factors into account. The three most important aspects to consider are: did you allocate enough resources to the campaign? Are you targeting the right audience with the right medium? Is your message “resonating,” which means can people relate to it?
Unless you are advertising a spectacular closeout sale, the rule of thumb is it could take a good 3 to 6 months, of real market penetration, to see results from your campaign. Even with that passage of time, a decision to pull the plug should never be taken in a vacuum or be based solely on emotion. You probably worked hard to map the campaign so it is equally worthwhile to figure out if it is really off track.
Recently, a client called and said Yitzchok, I know you counseled patience, but the response is schvach and I’m concerned. I recommended that we assemble a small focus group to obtain impartial feedback. The client came by with three people that he selected and we asked them some very specific questions. From their answers, we could see that each was giving messages back based on the creative approach that we took. This means the message was resonating, so I advised my client that it would be premature to cut it short.
Barring proof positive that your message is not clicking, the only other valid reasons for halting a campaign early is if you are getting complaints or if it is obvious that you have chosen the wrong medium to reach your target audience.
There can be other reasons why an ad campaign fails that have nothing to do with the medium or the message. You must always level with yourself, and your marketing firm, about any flaws or weaknesses to your product or service. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. Just as you must confide all of your symptoms to your doctor, and just as you have to tell your lawyer the whole truth and nothing but the truth, a prospective client has to come clean with his marketing firm.
Of course, a qualified marketing firm can help you put the right spin on your product and service. A professional expert understands how to communicate with an audience effectively. But sometimes, the product lacks sizzle.
One of the classic failed advertising campaigns began in April, 1985. After 100 years of making good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola, the company brought New Coke to the market, with a new formula designed to compete with Pepsi. Coca-Cola launched a splashy advertising campaign, hiring a famous comedian to promote it. When sales fizzled, Coke initially thought they picked the wrong bloke to plug it. Less than two months later, when market research showed people would rather drink water than New Coke, they pulled the plug on New Coke and poured it down the drain.
There is a second lesson to be learned from the Coca-Cola experience. If a company that has been around 100 years must advertise to keep its name before the public, then it is a kal v’chomer that lesser-known organizations must advertise too.
The worst mistake, other than pulling a plug prematurely, is never to plug yourself at all because you think it is too expensive.
Two years ago, Dr. Bill Siegel, Chairman & CEO of Longwoods International, a respected leader in brands strategy, conducted research into Colorado’s flagging tourism industry. In 1993, Colorado became the only state to eliminate its tourism marketing function, and cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. By 1995, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% and in the important summer resort segment, Colorado plummeted from 1st to 17th place among the 50 states.
To make a long story short, it took 14 long years and a new, higher $19 million budget for Colorado to rebound to an all-time tourism high. Fourteen years is a long time to wait to overcome a strategic mistake. It’s a lot easier to give an advertising campaign a few more weeks, or even months, to see if it will gain traction.
“The Colorado saga provides a cautionary tale for financial decision-makers who, in these difficult economic times, are naturally looking at major cutbacks in all areas, including promotion,” wrote Dr. Siegel. “It clearly illustrates that marketing is an essential net generator of revenue and profits to the organization, not a cost.
”This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Don’t cut and run until you’ve sat and thought!
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