Digital marketing, including social media, video, interactive, augmented reality, installations, mobile and integrated TV campaigns will be much better off once marketing executives can get out of their own way. From approval by committee, to passing the buck, to CYA (cover your ass), marketing executives are slowing down and in some cases killing the growth of digital marketing. Sure, there are the shining examples we all know and rave about, but for every Old Spice Guy campaign that gets the green light, there are hundreds of other big ideas being suffocated into extinction by a slow-moving parade of politically correct executives that know they should pull the trigger but have to be careful the gun isn’t aimed squarely at them.
I get it. You (yes, now I’m talking to you) are conflicted. You’d like to be the rockstar and advance your career with that one epic viral sensation or digital campaign of a lifetime that everyone knows about and knows you for. But there’s a voice inside your head that says “be careful, get buy-in from everyone around you... above, below and sideways, just in case. Don’t champion something until everyone you need to win over has been won over, and even then, tread slowly. If you’re lucky, the slate of approvals will take the project in so many directions that you’ll run out of time and maybe you won’t even have to do anything. It’s almost Friday.”
One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is the medium’s ability to reach millions of people in real-time and in a very real way. Consumers appreciate and reward fresh, new, inspired work. You remember! You were a consumer once, before you were pressed into service on the S.S. Marketing Department!
But in the words of John Goodman in Raising Arizona, “I'd rather light a candle than curse your darkness.” Successful digital marketing requires three things: budget, timing and a clear vision. Lose any one of them and your digital marketing will fail to meet expectations, assuming you took the time to set expectations in the first place. Here are five key areas that need to change before digital can finally take off and kick TV’s ass once and for all.
1. Failure to take chances
You’ve just sat through a pitch that you absolutely love! These kinds of things have never been done before. Aak! There’s that stupid voice again. “If it’s never been done, then how do we know it’ll work?” Take chances. Let’s not bet the farm on everything all at once. Start slow? Baby steps. A tweet here, a tweet there. Listen. Did the world end? No? Keep going. Maybe a bold Facebook status? A short video? Uh oh. A negative comment. Everyone freeze. What do we do?
NO!! Don’t start slow. Go big! And if you lose, at least you’ll lose big and forever be that person who went big. You can make a shirt that says “I went big and lost” and post it on Facebook. Your friends will be proud and give you money, and since you won’t have a job anymore that will be timely.
2. Political correctness
This is the worst offender by far. Here in the US, we’re so worried about who we’re going to offend that truly edgy, funny, creative marketing is in practical paralysis. We could all learn from what some of the international markets are doing with edgy videos and social media campaigns - from a family listening to songs about getting bleeped in the bleep to a giant panda that threatens to kick the crap out of people that don’t like his cheese. If you tried that here, the panda community would be up in arms because we’re perpetuating the stereotype that pandas eat cheese.
3. Approval by committee
OK, you definitely need approval from some key players, but do you need to get the nod from everyone down to the guy who fixes the copier? And if you do, change the rules. Explain why this is one of the leading killers of digital marketing. Tell them about too many cooks in the kitchen, and how you need autonomy. They’ll either respect you or you’ll get fired, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of standing up for what you believe in. Then give my agency a call. We’re always hiring smart, bold people.
4. Lack of lead time and digital campaign management
Similar to approval by committee, leadership by committee rarely works either. The result is often a tragic waste of valuable time that could have been spent planning, revising and building the campaign. Instead, decisions are often passed down the line, time is lost and campaigns are eventually pushed out last minute.
Marketing executives who are reluctant to either lead and manage their campaigns or assign a lead agency to manage time, get approvals and move things along run the risk of launching digital marketing that doesn’t perform as well as expected. Look to your digital creative agency partners to help you assume campaign leadership.
5. Checking boxes
Far too many marketing execs are approaching digital marketing as if they had to check boxes on a to-do list. Make a video... check. Update the stuff on Facebook... check. Tweet... check. Run a contest... check. Digital marketing needs to be a coordinated effort tied together with strategic planning, execution, analytics and real-time adjustments based on audience feedback. You can’t just check boxes and walk away.
I believe it’s time for marketing execs to man and woman up and start creating some amazing, memorable, digital marketing. There, I said it.