Guidelines to a compelling campaign

…so you can create

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I’ve been thinking lately about what constitutes a compelling campaign. I’ve been paying attention and training myself to think beyond the obvious whenever I look at a new ad on TV, or poster on the tube, or website on the internet. Politically, I’ve been trying to figure out what leaders are getting it right and why, artistically I’m trying to figure out what makes certain pieces of music or art work for me. This is what I’ve come up with:

1. Focus on a product’s USP but don’t sound patronising, and don’t slag the competition. What will make consumers want to buy a product more than any other in that category? Take Yoyo paper, for instance. Paper is a very standard product, no glamour involved at all. But what Yoyo does is deliver new paper and collect waste paper at the same time, doing a huge bit for the environment in the process. It’s the right time to launch something like this because people are increasingly going green. When I first heard of Yoyo, it was through an ad on TV, but it didn’t make me feel like I was morally obliged to use it. Ergo: success. Also, when I see an ad that openly slags the competition, I get pissed off. Don’t tell me that you are better than X. I can make that decision for myself. Tell me why I should want to buy you.

2. Be true to the product. If you try to package a bad product just to sell it, you’ll find yourself up shit creek at some point. The product is the star. You can’t make a porn star Meryl Streep, sorry. Unless its someone like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, where the diamond shone through the rock eventually!

3. Copy counts – be careful with puns. Dave Birss wrote a post recently about how, being a copywriter at an earlier point in his career, bad copy sticks out like a sore thumb when he sees it. I am too, though I’m not a copywriter. Most thinking people will be. Overdoing word play can be tricky, and you should be careful going down that path.

4. Talk to people in their language. There is a reason why more brands are including a digital component to their campaigns. Media is about communication, about reaching the consumer, and if the sphere they occupy is tending to be more digital (online) than analog (TV), then you need to think about heading in that direction. I’m not saying give up direct marketing, print, TV, out of home advertising altogether, because no one lives online 24/7. I’m saying that a larger part of their lives is being spent online, so meet them there, or find other brands doing that instead, to your detriment. Barack Obama has a huge online presence, and its one of the best ways he’s reached out to the public. It shows he’s not a fuddy-duddy, but someone who has his pulse on the energy of the times. If you want to target parents of babies, for example – lets say you were Totspot, a site that acts as a sort of online scrap book for your kids. You could go to daycare centres and nurseries and speak to parents there – have a ‘Spot your Tot’ competition from different baby pictures or something – just go where they are, start an email newsletter, get a conversation going and retain them for life!

5. Give people what they don’t know they want, in a way that will get their attention. Creativity will always count. A good example I can think of for this is Matter, a site that sends a box full of cool branded stuff to people now and then. Receiving gifts in the post is always a nice thing. People will remember them. Another example is Innocent, which has innovative direct marketing ideas which are simple yet communicate the brand idea brilliantly.

6. When in doubt, stick with the basics – just put a unique spin on it. Like music. Some pieces of music, or film, will always be classics, but some covers may be almost as good. Think of David Cook, this year’s American Idol winner. He put his special touch to almost every song he sang and continuously showed his creativity as an artist. He won.

PS: I finally succumbed to Spell with Flickr. Love it!

Favourite favourites..and then some

Two of my favourite blog posts are these: ‘how to be creative’ by Hugh MacLeod and ‘how to be interesting‘ by Russell Davies. Everyone could do with reading them.

Yesterday, Asi asked me which my three favourite blogs are. I thought it was a very interesting question because when you are put on the spot to answer a question (‘which is your favourite ad’ for example, which I’ve been asking people on this blog in the Brain Tap interview series, or ‘what is your favourite website’, which is another question I was asked by the folks from Undercurrent), you find that if you are face-to-face, if you have one split second to answer a question, you remember bits and pieces of many different blogs or websites that stood out at various points but not one, or two, or three in particular. Is Seth Godin less brilliant than Richard Huntington, for example? If these two are excellent writers and the third is Russell Davies, does that make Hugh MacLeod a distant fourth because he is out of the ‘top 3’ and more a cartoonist than a typical writer?

My answer to the ‘favourite website’ question was Google, by the way. It came off the top of my head in two seconds. Very simple, nothing fancy. One website which has become a verb, almost. One website which helps you find information related to any topic under the sun you happen to be thinking about. But I also enjoy reading The New Yorker, for the opinions of its writers and the range of topics it covers. Both are vastly different kinds of websites – Google is technically a search engine, I suppose, even if it is a website. It may be too simplistic an answer for many. Does this mean that for me simplicity rules over thoughts and ideas? I am reminded of a phrase I saw on M&C Saatchi’s website – ‘brutal simplicity’. They believe in distilling all the ideas they have for their clients into one word. By that logic, because Google is so shorn of all frills as a site but ranks high on utility, and the New Yorker is packed with information of all sorts, probably low on utility but high on ideas, one is better than the other? And because I said Google that first instance, I am more simplistic than full of ideas? I think not.

For some people, it may be easy. The intellectuals may think that it’s a no-brainer – of course the New Yorker is a better site than Google. So does that mean it is less useful? Which is more creative? Does creativity count, or does utility count? And aren’t the definitions for those terms always, always subjective?

The answer, of course, is that both count. On a day-to-day basis you probably use Google more, but you’re not going to give up your weekly dose of The New Yorker because you like the way it gives you food for thought. I stand by my original answer, but I’d like to add to it – Google AND the New Yorker for me, thanks.

As for my favourite blogs – this is really a difficult one, but I’m going to stick with the few names I just mentioned, and I’ll tell you why. Seth Godin, Richard Huntington, Hugh MacLeod and Russell Davies, and an addition – The Sartorialist, in no particular order. And the reason is that the first four give me a lot of food for thought. I find myself agreeing with a lot of what they say and realising that I have very similar thoughts, only not as brilliant a way of putting them down. (Ha ha!!). In the case of The Sartorialist, I like seeing pictures of the latest fashions from around the world because I’m intrigued by the way global fashion consciousness changes from region to region and season to season.

And yes, you could add TimeOut (for information on events), and The New York Times (for content) and Modernista (for its uniqueness) to my ‘website’ list as well. It’s never going to end, is it? There is just so much good stuff out there. Sigh!!