Since we hear about success stories of promotional campaigns measured through customers’ overwhelming responses, there must be something opposite called promotional failure where the campaign might have missed the expected hit otherwise. Well, does it seem easy to differentiate between the successful and failed campaigns?
Designing an effective campaign can be synonymous to translation jobs. Translating from one language to another can be tricky because you not only need to find matching words, but also need to be careful about keeping the meaning unchanged while translating. The job becomes more challenging if you want to re-translate the already translated text to a third language. In the series of chain translations, your original meaning may get lost!
Let us see what happens in designing a campaign. Simply put, we can imagine the promotional campaign as a matter of three-party process involving customer, marketer and the ad agency. The process ideally goes in a circular fashion. First, the marketer “listens” to customers about their tastes and preferences. This listening involves conceiving customer insights that yield a competitive edge over competitors. A marketer should not move forward without having this extra edge. Otherwise, he/she would stand in a common crowd of products yielding the same old question in customers’ minds— “why should I buy this?” For example, in buying a refrigerator, customers might expect that it will give hassle-free service for a long time (“durability” is the winning criterion). We may use this insight in the next step.
In step two, marketers would decide on strategy based on insights gained in the step one. This is about connecting insight to strategy. This strategy will call for redesigning product (if necessary), choosing a positioning concept and designing marketing programs to execute. For example, notice how Walton refrigerator vigorously promoted its “100% Copper condenser” claim to customers. Not everybody understands what copper condenser does, but what Walton has been able to communicate is very important here. Even though I don’t understand the technicality of a condenser, Walton has been able to communicate that Copper Condenser lasts longer than other types of condensers, thus making a “connection” of their strategy to customer insight (“durability” as a winning criterion).
In the third step, the strategy needs to be translated into a “message”. This is the purpose of calling in a specialized ad agency which is supposed to be adept at formulating and executing message to its target audience. The ad agency will look into the customer insight, marketer’s strategy and then figure out what, how, where, how much, when and to whom part of the message. Up to now, the job of translation goes two times here. First, the marketer translates consumer insights into strategy; then the ad agency translates marketer’s strategy into message. Really tricky, isn’t it? Let us see the Three-stage Translation process© visually:
Now imagine what could go wrong in the process that might lead to campaign failure. Can customer insights be wrongly perceived in the first place? Will the insight in a specific market be applicable to a similar market in another culture? This first miss may upset the whole process no matter how effectively the later “translations” are done.
In the second scenario, assume that the insight was rightly identified. However, if sufficient strategy back-up is not provided, the later stages will face tremendous challenge to succeed. For example, if the “durability” is the key factor that customers expect, subsequent strategies must reflect this factor in the marketing program. Is the product designed with this criterion in mind? Was the quality in this case ensured? Was budget enough to support the execution? Many ad agencies are given the hard task of promoting a sub-standard product assuming that advertising will work wonders. Sometimes, an otherwise good quality product would be given a low budget that could never match the competition. Most times, not taking care of customer insights through strategy integration will backfire and cause expensive damages.
In the third scenario, despite identifying the distinct insight, including enough budget backup and adapted strategy by marketers, ad agencies might falter in its message design and execution. This is also a critical part because all strategies in paper looks good until the real communication game starts to achieve results.
In the fourth scenario, assume that both the insight and strategy have been translated into apparently a valid message (two stages of translations are done). The last danger lies in the third stage of translation by the customer. If there is a difference between what the advertiser intended and what the customer understood, it will lead to a poor communication, if not a disaster. An apparently valid message can go wrong depending on the execution. This is why most agencies will go for pretesting before a full-scale launch is being decided.
Now you know where the campaign failures are hiding. It is a three stage translation process (insight to strategy, strategy to message and message to customer interpretation) that needs to be handled carefully. It is not necessarily the ad agency that needs to be blamed always.