by Andrea Wiley
“Advertising is a craft executed by people who aspire to be artists, but is assessed by those who aspire to be scientists. I cannot imagine any human relationship more perfectly designed to produce total mayhem.”
While this quote by John Ward of B&B Dorland is decades old, it is still relevant today.
Big creative ideas solve problems. They come from an insatiable sense of curiosity and the relentless pursuit of “What if.” They go beyond the boundaries of obvious and they make you uncomfortable. But when an advertising campaign is executed strategically, yielding desired results, big ideas can work for your business, no matter the size.
If your current marketing efforts aren’t solving your business’ problems, it is time to shake up what you are doing and how you are doing it. But before going straight to possible solutions, you better know what problems you are trying to solve.
Real data about your business can reveal those problems, but problems sound bad. They are better viewed as opportunities.
Revealing those opportunities is critical for setting goals: How much revenue did you make last year and how much do you want to grow it? What type of revenue do you want to grow? Are your customers’ preferences changing? What are the opportunities with your under-utilized products/services to grow those types of revenue? Where are your customers geographically and what markets do you want to expand? What new markets do you want to enter? When are your company’s peak selling times and when is activity dormant? What is your competition doing to woo your customers and prospects? Are they dominating a bigger piece of the market pie?
You get the idea.
Whether you are crunching the numbers on your business or your extensive team of marketing analysts is scientifically splitting hairs about what it all means, the data behind such questions will enable you to set goals for your advertising campaign. Qualitative goals look good and make everyone feel good, but the most important are quantifiable goals.
If you don’t determine goals that you can quantify, you will be left with nothing to measure the campaign’s success against, which could leave you unsure about the return on investment. Knowing the facts about your business’ current situation is imperative in making educated decisions about what you want to accomplish in the future.
Arming your agency with these goals and a deep understanding of your current customer, as well as prospects and what motivates them on an emotional level, will provide them with the tools needed to develop a unique, creative solution or big idea to stand out among your competition, regardless of what business you are in.
Allstate Insurance, for instance, decided to take a risk when they needed it most. They had been hit hard by the economic downturn and were about to do something bold with their advertising. They recognized that insurance is a commodity, a necessary evil to most anyone who has had to make a claim. Coverage plus deductibles equals blah, blah, blah, boring. Fear tactics could have been an obvious creative approach: Maybe a tornado ripping your house to shreds, a head-on collision, or coming home to find your home burnt to the ground. Pretty terrifying stuff.
The big idea was a spin on fear tactics no one had seen before. It was humorous and relatable, and focused on everyday accidents rather than catastrophic tragedies. “Mayhem” was introduced in the likes of, OMG — a teenage girl, a raccoon, a hot water heater, a tree branch landing on a car, and many other causes of accidents that could happen to anyone. Not only did they make us laugh, they made us think twice about our “cut-rate” insurance coverage.
At the two-quarter mark after the campaign launched, Allstate sales had increased by almost 5 percent to $7.9 billion. And the “Mayhem” campaign is still running today, six years later. The big idea of “Mayhem” set Allstate apart from Geico, State Farm, and Progressive. It struck a chord with consumers, which led to real results.
Just like national brands, local brands have the opportunity to develop and execute advertising campaigns that get attention with a big, creative idea that communicates the right message, utilizing the right media mix. But if that campaign doesn’t achieve the intended results (or better) it means nothing.
Andrea Wiley is an adjunct professor teaching advertising at the University of Memphis and past president of the AAF, Memphis Chapter.
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