Know When to Hold ‘em…

Here’s an age-old question: How long should I run my ad campaign?

Before we dare answer that one, we’ve got some questions for YOU. What’s the state of your brand’s relationship with its market? How are they responding to your campaign? For most branding campaigns, answers to these questions are critical to know. And even if the feedback isn’t positive, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should dump the campaign. There are adjustments, both to the message or the media buy, which can be made.

We suggest you take a page out of the book of Warren Buffet.

The eternal question for most investors is, “How long should I hold my stocks?” The answer to that question is complicated as well, but easier to understand. Investors, like Mr. Buffet, are concerned with the FUNDAMENTALS of a company – not the stock price, and not the amount of money you’ve made or lost in a few hours. By looking at the economics of a business, the balance sheet, income, etc., smart investors are concerned with the company’s health and growth.

When you own a piece of a company and the company’s fundamentals are solid, you should remain an owner, right? Right.

So, what are your campaign’s fundamentals? Is the conversation relevant? Is the response from your audience steady or growing? Is the position your brand holds precarious or rock solid? Are you managing your brand image responsibly? If the fundamentals are positive, why change a thing? “I’m changing it to keep it fresh” is not a good enough reason. Be aware of what’s going on fundamentally.

Be aware of the milestones of the campaign as well. The steps it takes should be mindfully managed. Here is a rough timeline applicable to any branding campaign:

Brands often choose to start the conversation with a titillating, yet incomplete, piece of the campaign. Depending on the media budget and scope of the campaign, this could be a disarming or surprising tactic (in a good way). It’s a fine line.

The timing, reach and scope of any ad campaign launch are sometimes as crucial as the content. What comes first? Where is the target within their sales cycle? Does this all jibe with your brand identity? Sometimes the “soft” opening play is best due to internal operations, trial or a need for more freedom to adjust.

So, the campaign has been born. You need to know how the conversation is going. What are your in-campaign metrics? Does your target need more or less in front of them? The dinner party has started and you should be aware if everyone has a drink and appetizers are out. Once the campaign is at full force, are your guests enjoying themselves?

Leave yourself some wiggle room to adjust once the party is flowing. Remember, this is not 1964 and it’s not a one-sided conversation from company to customer. It’s 50 years later and the conversation belongs to anyone willing to participate. If that dialogue needs addressing, be honest, be helpful and remember: Jack, be nimble.

Who knows when you hit this stage? Well, if you’re close to the customer YOU should know. Is the party getting boring? Is the food getting stale? Ad campaign maturity can take three different paths:

The content of this campaign is a shallow pool. When people use the term “legs,” it means the idea can grow into maturity and beyond. These campaigns don’t have legs, or the legs haven’t been stretched in a while. We’re tired of it already.

People aren’t aware of the levels appropriate for success. Your campaign is either forgettable and needs bigger ideas, or your media strategy is off target. Make some noise, peeps.

Perfectly Played
People are talking. There are more ideas where those came from and the target is responding. Crucial: Just like any decent entertainer, always leave them wanting MORE.

Where do we go once it’s a mature campaign? Two paths flow from here: evolution or reinvention. Do you keep it going, and if so, what are you doing to keep it rewarding for the target? Do you make the switch to something new? And if you do switch to something new, are you building on the past idea by keeping some aspect of it alive, or are you ignoring the past and blazing a new trail? These ideas, historically, are dependent upon the industry. Some obvious “blazing new trails” industries are fashion and fast food. Finance, manufacturing or heath care move more slowly and often choose to evolve more slowly.

Wherever you and your campaign are in the levels of maturity, keep two things in mind: Who are you as a brand, and who are they as an audience? We’ve talked a lot about this in the past and will continue to talk about it in the future. It’s the greatest barometer for the life of any campaign. You should know your core user. You should know exactly who your target market is. And you should LIVE your brand. If correctly built, your brand should not bend and break under the weight of a fickle populous. Know who you are and the components of your identity.

Whether you’ve developed the next Energizer Bunny or “Just Do It” campaign, you need to be aware of the relationship between brand and audience. Remember, it’s a dinner party and you need to be the hostess with the mostess.