Great creative strategy always starts with a clear articulation of a business problem, and a rational strategy for solving it. This is the outer layer of the onion that peels away to expose a marketing strategy. Let's talk about how you apply your marketing strategy and your audience insights to generate tactics that sing.
Based on how you answered your top three questions in Part 4 of this series, you have the answers that you need to select your tactics. So, let's flip those questions around and use them as the proper guide to discuss the thinking that should help shape your tactical marketing approach.
Tell your audience what they want to hear, based on how they feel.
You've determined some key understandings about your audience base. Now distill that material into one key insight that will make them pay attention. Ideally, you have to be able to say this in one sentence (or less) to succeed in selling your client and your shareholders.
In the realm of financial services, think about MasterCard: "Priceless." Or Citi: "Live Richly." Or way back when Washington Mutual knew what they were doing: "More Human Interest." Each of those key insights was an embodiment of how they understood their audience needs. They are all ways of making a dull, droll, somewhat cutthroat industry foster a human connection with their audience. (Reading that previous sentence over again, I'm sounding pretty jaded.)
I'm not saying you always need to come up with some catchy phrase for your client. You just need to know what human insight drives your tactics. Some clients can hand the appropriate insight to you on a platter, and save you plenty of work. If you have a less sophisticated client, or you're being hired to generate this insight, you will need to include this key insight in the brief, or you're taking a big risk.
Talk to your audience where they'll pay the most attention.
Once you have the insight nailed, you go back to your research about where your audience lives and breathes.
If they're business travelers, you could hit them in the taxi, in the airport, on business television, on those little coffee cup sleeves.
If they're consumers, you may recommend redesigning their packaging based on behavioral research and focus groups.
If your audience likes to spend a ton of time online, you could develop a seeding strategy for bloggers, fostering two-way communication between your corporation and your customer base.
Of course, all of these thoughts will dovetail with previous efforts your client has made, and the statistics about how they have performed.
In the good old days, we used to talk about "above the line" communications (a.k.a. television, print, and other high-profile awareness-generating mediums) and "below the line communications" (direct mail, in-store sales, training, anything focused on fostering sales). Nowadays, there is no line. Since we're talking about fostering great customer experiences that lead to long-term relationships with brands, every single customer interaction could lead to a positive or negative impression of a company and its products and services. If a client comes to you saying they want to sell 100,000 more bags of chips a month, you can't just say to run some ads and call it a day. Your approach needs to be multilayered and more sophisticated, taking into account both traditional one-way media communications (such as advertising, collateral, branding) and two-way media communications (such as compelling interactive, social networking, blogging, thought leadership, in-person dialogue).
So while it's easy to tell a company that they need to get in front of 1 million eyeballs to generate 10,000 sales, it's not the appropriate answer anymore. I can't imagine walking into a client's office and advocating that kind of solution without being roundly laughed at. As consumers, we expect dialogue with brands. We know we're in control of the game and have a real voice in the marketplace. Online, your voice can carry just as much weight as 100,000 impressions of a banner advertisement, or more.
Assume the audience won't hear it the first time. Or the second. Or...
Another attribute of your audience research should be focused on how you can craft your communication strategy to surround the right people at the right point in the sales process with the right message. It's no longer "one size fits all" communications that can accomplish every single goal with one swing of the hammer. Be smart about how each touch fosters progress through your sales process, while at the same time, being aware that your customers may only get message 2, 4, and 7 out of your grand media scheme -- meaning that each creative communication should always hit home the key insight and provide some of the support necessary to foster the right kind of experience and prompt some level of future interaction.
Test, test, test. And then test some more.
Return on investment should dictate every move you make in the marketplace. Don't ever put a tactic on the table, such as a long run of television spots, or a grandiose series of online ads, without factoring iteration and improvement into the process. Due to up-to-the-second metrics on interactive properties, clients expect adjustment on the fly. And be prepared to kill a buy midstream or shift media or money to other channels if they don't perform at the right cost per acquisition. Unless your goals include some measure of thought leadership or more favored brand presence, don't think about pouring more cash into "love bombs" or other forms of sheer goodwill without the research to back up the long-term ramifications of your actions.
In the final part of this series, I'll share some broad guidelines to help your marketing insights take the appropriate form in compelling marketing communications.