As marketers, our time and effort is often organized and oriented around campaigns, which are concentrated, time-bound, and largely promotional prosecutions designed to move the needle for the business. Campaigns represent the combination of air cover and ground support required to catalyze demand and to direct selling motions.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this way of thinking. After all, we’re all in business to sell stuff. But it’s a concept that has the potential to collide headlong with the ethos of content and social marketing, which are disciplines that, in their most effective forms, tend to bet long on the customer.
Perhaps paradoxically, content and social marketing—very modern marketing disciplines—seek to acquire customer loyalty the old fashion way: by earning it.
It’s got to make you wonder whether the campaign construct is maybe a bit outmoded.
Also, campaigns are often activated to shape demand patterns in very specific, product centric ways. But in the age of brand storytelling, it’s about engaging with audiences with a broader corporate narrative. As a company and as a brand, it’s often less about your individual products than it is about sum of your parts.
It’s about what you stand for, not the products you seek to peddle.
That’s why, while I believe the campaign still has a role to play, its role is diminishing. The ascendancy of content marketing will match the gradual decline of the campaign.
In its place will be continuous storytelling. These stories, of course, may be organized around themes that vaguely resemble the campaigns of yore. But rather than focusing on driving short term gains in units shipped, they’ll focus on driving lifetime value, loyalty and advocacy.
So, as you begin your 2014 planning, consider whether you should trade campaign thinking for a longer bet on the customer. Because it’s often the patient investor who yields the greatest returns.