Campaign of the Future

[originally posted here at]

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Recently, Jim Cuene, one of our General Mills clients asked me over dinner what the “campaign of the future” looked like. The point was just interesting discussion (I should clarify that I make terrible small talk generally limited to reality TV and more recently, a review of my newly acquired Kindle), but it got me thinking. The below is what immediately sprung to mind while talking to Jim, but given the discussion that stemmed from it, I thought I’d share those thoughts on Denuology. And no, I didn’t just say “there’s no such thing.”

The three most significant changes I see in campaigns (let me disclaim that “I” cannot possibly account for the numerous conversations with brilliant minds that have led to such thinking, including most of Denuo) over the mid-term are:

1. Marketing will create assets

I’m not in the over-simplified camp that thinks advertising as entertainment is dead. However, I do think that spending such significant money on something that’s 100% transient is foolish, even on a good day. Instead, the core investment in the future will likely go toward something sustainable, upon which more transient “campaign” messages can be placed/delivered. In other words, I think marketing will be about creating assets that look like platforms, whether those are technologies, services, product investment (informal R&D), or more ethereally, ideas. Nike probably does this best today of the big marketers. Here at Denuo, Rishad has been winning over procurement folks for years because of this core philosophy, and it’s clearly evident in the workChristian is pioneering on behalf of HP.

2. Brands will ask for things besides a purchase

I’m a firm believer that brands invest way too much time, energy and thinking into something that generally ends with asking someone to buy something at a specified time. Instead, it’s much more effective and efficient to ask for a variety of needs. Most brands are surprised by how passionate and willing a core audience is when given the right tools to help brands along (Chris Anderson went so far as to call it a core tenet of the new economy in Free). There’s an entire industry to be built on helping brands with mass collaboration (a term I prefer over the narrowly defined “crowd sourcing,” coined by Shaun Abrahamson at Mutopo, a true thought leader in the field). Simply understanding how to build a “campaign” that gets the right tools in the right people’s hands can increase marketing efficiency by huge multiples.

This premise of collaborating regularly with customers, hardcore or otherwise, should be a core element to any “campaign” for brands thinking about the future. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand these campaigns still require a creative engine behind them. Delivering tools and incentives alone has proven successful for very few, uniquely positioned brands; yet it’s what most brands experimenting in the space seem to be doing.

3. Brands will get over synchronization and focus on personalization

Many of you have heard me complain about the way many brands strive for what they call “integrated.” In most cases, it’s a rigid pursuit of asset-porting across media. Most creative departments know this feeling. Want to hear it yourself? Find the nearest digital creative director and put two beers in him or her. Three and you’ll need to wear earmuffs. The idea that brands need to look, act, and talk the same at every touch point is both unnecessarily restricting and contrary to the humanness consumers are looking for in their brands. No one likes a guy who talks about the same thing every time (did I mention Jim left dinner early?), so why would anyone think people like brands that do?

The amount of time and energy wasted on this uniformity will likely be spent understanding how a brand can have personal interactions with consumers in each environment. It’s a core tenet of our Alchemy practice, which is built to ensure that the media environment is an input in how to personalize these conversations. Luckily for most brands, Facebook has done a lot of the heavy-lifting for them via Facebook Connect. It just might end up being the harbinger to this whole campaign of the future thing.

Which reminds me. I need to add Facebook Connect to the small talk list.


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