Friday, February 26, 2010

Use Strategy to Breakthrough Advertising Clutter

(As recently published in Healthcare Marketing Advisor, February 2010, by Rob Rosenberg - President, Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, Ltd.)

Ironically, the most effective way for marketers to break the mold and breakthrough with consumers is to start with a well-defined strategy and creative brief. The tighter the strategy, the more liberating the opportunity to create outstanding advertising campaigns. The irony is that advertisers (and many creative people) feel that tight strategies actually stifle the creative process and limit the number of "big ideas" that can be generated for an ad campaign.

The opposite is true. A clear strategy actually opens the world of big ideas and you won't waste time by thinking execution before strategy. The idea is to execute the strategy, not strategize the execution.

Consumers are bombarded with over 3,000 messages a day in some manner, so you have to break the mold to be noticed. But that doesn't mean you have to break the bank or push the creative envelope right off the edge (to the point it makes no sense). A big idea flows from a well conceived strategy and the execution follows.

In healthcare advertising - as George Carlin might have said - avoid the "seven dully words or phrases" - safe, multidisciplinary, "we care", integrated, accredited, comprehensive, and patient-centered.

Know the impact and shelf life of different kids of executions. For example, humor wears out fast but tends to be noticed. Testimonials will last longer but you'll want several to keep the campaign believable and memorable. The "mold" that needs to be broken is the campaign that features healthcare professionals, buildings, scientific language, and the very popular (but forced) classical music - all rolled into a tidy 30-second commercial.

Remember, if you can cover your logo at the end of the commercial or print ad and realize that it could have been created for any hospital, it's not good! And it probably means that the idea started with an execution in mind, and not a strategy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Ah-ha" versus "Uh-huh." You might be surprised at the moment of truth.

We've heard it before. "I was presenting the strategy to my leadership team and suddenly they had the "ah-ha" moment and got what I was saying." Or, "finally had that "ah-ha" moment and came up with a big creative idea!"

Call it what you will - "ah-ha" moments, "connecting the dots," or "putting the pieces together," they all imply a breakthrough in thinking or understanding. They can be the best of times and strike when you least expect them (and that's why we keep pens and paper on the nightstand). Or they can be the worst of times, and those are the ones you need to watch out for.

For example, you're presenting a brand strategy or ad campaign to your hospital's CEO. A good portion of your discussion is based on the market situation, competitive insights, brand landscape, communications objectives, and other great information. Then, the moment of truth. You transition from the comfort of facts to the translation of brand strategy or creative executions.

You think you want the "ah-ha" moment, but in truth, you might actually be better served with an "uh-huh" moment.

When the boss nods his head and exclaims, "ah-ha!" what he's probably saying is "you know, I was wondering where you were going this entire time and now I finally get it." Whereas the "uh-huh" response usually means "that makes sense based on the facts and data you've presented and the recommendations support these findings. I get it, and I agree."

(I hope those of you reading this are saying "uh-huh, yep, that makes sense.)

In typical advertising presentations, "ah-ha" moments typically follow the creative show. And, unfortunately, it's not because somebody has just presented a whopper of a big idea (so few and far between...). Rather, it's most likely because the strategy has been lost in translation either from the market insights or to the creative execution. So when the creative idea is flashed, it gets a big "ah-ha!" Because now the whole presentation sort of makes sense!

Your goal, however, as branders, marketers, and advertisers, should be the "uh-huh" moment when making a strategic or creative presentation. When you get that response, it means you've done the job of setting up the strategy, clearly describing it, and executing it in a way that tracks and reinforces the direction. Now, please don't take this as meaning the ideas - both strategic and creative - have to be boring and that equates with an "uh-huh" reply. In fact, you have a better chance of selling the big idea if you've made your case and the creative pays off the strategy, and the strategy pays off the marketing insights. When you achieve this, "uh-huh" can be the best reaction you can get!

In the branding and communications business, we're often taught that "ah-ha" moments are when the light bulbs flash. And that's true, but when you're creating and selling an entire branding campaign, you don't want the bulbs to flash too bright when you unveil the big idea. A confident glow of "uh-huh" means you've done an effective job setting up the situation, translating a strategy, and executing an idea.

Make sense? Uh-huh!