Before we start talking about best practices or the impacts and importance of advertising, we need to address an elephant in the room and tackle some misconceptions and myths about the advertising industry.
First, advertising is not the solution for all problems a brand, a product or even an entire company might have. There is no such thing as a miracle move or a magical formula to create a shortcut in business, whether we are talking about marketing, sales, operations, or any other aspect of business.
Secondly, advertising should be used as one marketing and business tool among many others like a hammer in a toolbox. We don’t expect from a hammer to work outside of its purpose and that’s the reason we need to have more than one tool to rely on and know-how and when to use each one of them when building something.
Last, but not least, advertising should be treated and thought out the same way as investments, finances, and accounting. It isn’t something we just do with no direction, it’s something we do based on goals, measurement, planning, and calculated actions.
The Power of Advertising
Advertising as a marketing and communications tool has unique characteristics, which differ from other tools and tactics. Advertising can be flexible and adapt to your business needs, resources and specificities. Kept under your control advertising can be extremely powerful and capable of impacting not only customers, but also the media, prospective audiences and even opinion leaders, which leads us to the famous quote, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
Once we understand all the possibilities the power of advertising can lend to a brand, we have to maximize its force and minimize the chance of having it backfire on us. There are numerous brands, which have suffered the consequences of bad advertising, which has left scars on the brand’s image.
Recently we saw one of those bad usages of advertising demonstrated by a globalised brand of soft beverages, Fanta. In an attempt to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the brand’s advertising agency launched a campaign approaching the origins of the product. Unluckily, and we might say naively not noticed, the product has its roots linked to the Nazi German of the World War II, which by itself is enough reason for not being used in an ad. The backfire of the Fanta ad campaign was so huge that Coca-Cola rapidly pulled out the whole thing to start some damage control initiatives.
What not to do in advertising
- Establishing communication with the wrong audience;
- Diluting a brand’s advertising power by pulverizing the communication efforts inconsistently across many channels;
- Starting a campaign before all the “homework” has been done properly;
- Selecting and using the wrong platform, ad format and/or channel;
- Wasting money by “doing some advertising” without planning it and establishing a way of measuring its performance;
- Not properly connecting the three major elements of all models of communication: Sender – Message – Receiver;
- Doing everything above at the same or at different times.
In The Beginning, There Was Only Chaos
The beginning of every advertising related initiative is generally chaotic. There will be a lot of expectations, necessities, information, limitations, opinions, ideas, and politics. And of course, as with all things in life and business, there is Murphy’s Law.
When dealing with chaos, trying to bring order by developing a strategic plan. You need to have both of your feet firmly on the ground. Adding a little bit of Murphy to the formula provides the sense of caution needed for good planning and better execution. It gives us precision and prepares us for what is realistic and what is desired. Best of all, it makes us cover all of the possibilities before executing a campaign.
Remember, if there’s a chance of something happening, it will likely happen!
By adding order to the chaos, your planning can start to take the form of an advertising campaign.
The first step you should take is the creation of filters and rules to prevent losing focus and give yourself guidelines to work from. The basic filters all advertising initiatives should have are:
- Marketing Goals and Objectives to solve a pre-established marketing problem;
- A Budget allocated to the initiative;
- A Target;
- Time allocated to reach the goals and objectives;
- Industry limitations;
- Brand guidelines to be followed;
- Initiatives on other business fronts, which may need to be linked.
Spend some quality time in this phase. Cover all of the possibilities. Learn from others’ mistakes and your competitors. Review your filters and most importantly, keep your plan simple and pragmatic.
If you do this first step right, you’ll save time and money and increase performance during the rest of the process.
What’s good and what’s bad?
The second part of creating a good advertising initiative is determining how to measure its success. Even if you do everything perfectly, it won’t be meaningful without a means to measure results and interpret them properly.
Driven by the need to do something to solve a marketing problem and achieve specific marketing goals, companies and ad agencies tend to accelerate the process, partially or entirely skipping the step of creating measurement parameters.
Marketers tend to be so excited with the idea of firing off a new advertising campaign, they forget to think about how they’ll measure the forthcoming results. They rely on the concept that once the campaign is really well planned and executed, the results will be invariably good and will meet the established goals and objectives. They forget all about our buddy Murphy and his law.
The best way to avoid unwanted surprises is to react fast, adapt your campaign to any changes which might happen along the way, and understand everything that’s occurring is to begin captured by a solid measurement plan.
Current measurement plans are boosted by the digital environment, which enables marketers to collect, process, and analyze web presence data and information. However, any good plan should transcend digital marketing and include all environments.
To start creating a comprehensive measurement plan, you’ll have to breakdown your marketing goals into more specific advertising goals. The idea here is your marketing goals and objectives are part of a macro strategy and a macro environment. With that said, advertising goals and objectives are part of a micro strategy and a microenvironment.
For example, a marketing goal could be strengthening the brand’s identity and position in comparison to its competition. This is a macro goal and could be broken into micro-goals from an advertising perspective. In this example, micro-advertising goals could be to identify and secure any new platforms where the brand is not being found or disseminate content and engage consumers/prospects on existing platforms.
You need to determine those micro-goals accurately and they should ultimately address the macro goals. Once we have those goals established, we should determine the value and importance of each one towards achieving greater marketing goals.
With micro-advertising goals established, we can now determine ways to measure the success and the failure of all attempts and efforts to reach those goals. To make things clearer and easier, we should determine the Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, which will allow us to evaluate all the factors crucial for reaching the defined goals.
The key ingredient to making things perfect is establishing the expected Return On Investment a.k.a. ROI. The ROI will guide the campaign by focusing on efforts showing the highest return. It’s a basic investment principle. If you invest $100 divided equally into two funds and after a period of time one is showing a better return than the other, you will probably consider concentrating all of your money on this one instead of the other. Your approach to advertising should be the same. The place you want to invest more is where your money is paying off the most and the same goes for the opposite side; if it’s not worth investing there, stop wasting your money.
However, ROI should never surpass your marketing or advertising goals. ROI is an additive to boost performance, but some goals aren’t measured by direct return on investment; like brand awareness, for example.
After determining your goals, the level of importance, and the role each one has on reaching your marketing objectives, defining the KPIs and ROI will become clearer. You will have a compass to help guide you through the journey of advertising.
No more rookie gambling. Plan it and play the advertising game like a pro.
Good planning consists of arriving at the best answers to three major types of questions; Strategic, Tactical, and Actionable.
The strategic level is the starting point of any plan and more often is where people tend to drift. It’s really difficult to separate Strategy from Tactics, mostly because they tangle themselves together and the end of one is almost always the beginning of the other. To make things a little easier, try to put them into a storyline. For example, let’s assume you are dealing with an ordinary situation like going to work on a Monday morning. You overslept and you decide to drive to work even though you know your workplace is close to your home. You enter your car, start the engine, begin driving down your street, turn left on a faster route, and before you know it you turn right to arrive at the office on time.
This story can be separated into events that demonstrate Strategy, Tactics, and Actions.
- Choosing to use the car to meet your goal instead of the bus or other transportation method is the Strategy;
- Choosing to use the faster route is the Tactic;
- Turning left and right and everything you might have done during the journey are the Actions.
Now you can bring the same idea to an advertising plan. For example:
- Choosing to focus a campaign solely on Digital is the Strategy;
- Choosing the digital platforms you want to work with like Social Media, Search Marketing, Display, etc. are the Tactics;
- Choosing to use specific ad formats, placements and channels are the Actions.
In order to know how to establish a campaign’s strategy, tactics and actions, you must identify and determine the best ones based on the filters of the first step and the measurement plan: Goals, Budget, Target, Time and KPIs. When you conceive a plan meeting all of these important criteria, you have the necessary means to start executing and measuring all of your advertising initiatives as a pro and not a rookie gambler.