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Marketing Campaigns Might Only Be Mostly Dead

Advertising luminaries such as Eric Wheeler at Ad Age and Bill Lee in the Harvard Business Review have long declared that campaigns are dead. While some campaigns are dead (see the 2016 Iowa Caucus), the idea that structured marketing campaigns are dead is being a bit over-hyped, particularly by social media gurus.

In the Princess Bride, Inigo is distraught because he thinks his friend Westley is dead. Max the Wizard responds, “Well it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Now, mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead—well, with all dead, there’s only usually one thing that you can do. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

When companies are spending $5 million for a Super Bowl commercial as part of a multi-channel, platform marketing process, one has to understand that that’s a lot of loose change for a dead man to have in his pockets. Campaigns are not dead, but they are evolving, and at an incredible pace.     

Some things never change. Regardless of the object of our desire, we all go through the same mental process to get what we want. Often referred to as the buyer’s journey, I am going to simplify it and call it the “journey for stuff.” It works like this:

The communications process that makes it easy for buyers to buy a company's stuff is alas, a “campaign.” And while campaigns are clearly not dead, they sure have gotten a lot more difficult to plan, manage, and justify. 

As campaigners, we have so much to deal with. There are issues of buyers’ trust, marketplace disruption, buyers’ attention spans, their need for bite-sized content, their communications channel preference, their expectations, their place of purchase, their mode of payment, and on and on. It’s all about them. We have to be wherever they are, whenever they are there. What ever happened to the four Ps?

Big data is becoming “huge” data. While the best of us can plan and create micro segments and personas and trust in the ability of on-the-fly, dynamic modeling to perceive customer intent and serve the right content on a laptop, a phone, and a wristwatch simultaneously, aligning the right technology to  “mange the moments” that get buyers to buy can boggle the mind. Or at least it boggles my mind. It is amazing how complex the simple sales process of selling stuff has become.

Yet we campaigners carry on. We live for that last-minute rush that stimulates our juices and produces campaigns that are not good, but great. Campaigns, despite the premature prediction of their demise, are not dead, and in fact are more than “slightly alive.” At times, however, the demand for great planning, multi-channel orchestration, and brilliant execution can paralyze us. 

Take heart and remember this from one of the best campaigners in our generation, Don Draper: “Maybe I am not as comfortable being powerless as you are.”

Rather than rely on loose change, learn how marketing automation can get your own campaigns up and moving around by downloading Marketing Automation Simplified.

Author Bio: James Vander Putten joined Merkle in 2015 as Senior Director Channel Optimization. In his career, James has led mission critical marketing functions such as campaign development, advanced customer profiling and segmentation, integrated platform marketing, social media marketing, database development, and fulfillment, as well as global marketing process and organizational optimization. His most recent focus has been on global high-tech demand generation at companies such as SAP, Raritan Computer, and Pitney Bowes, and earlier in his career he led customer development and acquisition functions at industry-best companies like Saks 5th Avenue, American Express, and Altria.

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