Beware lack of insights, inconsistency, and no call to action

Marketers can prevent programs from failing by reading and reacting to some of the obvious, and not so obvious, warning signs.

This week, we're talking about how marketers can prevent programs from failing by reading and reacting to some of the obvious, and not so obvious, warning signs in our planning.

On Monday, we highlighted the importance of not creating a brand monologue by adopting the 90/10 rule of thumb. We also stressed the importance of using traditional vehicles, although perhaps not as hip or hot, because they are still an important ingredient in making a program produce results. Finally, we cautioned about not opening a can of worms – the brand can no longer control the entire conversation, so we should map various scenarios upfront as to how consumers will participate and make sure that we are comfortable with each one.

Today we continue the dialogue with three more warning signs. Have you considered these?

There's no insight. Every good marketer knows that a program should be based on an insight – it's 101, a basic part of our jobs. But it's amazing how many marketing campaigns seem to lack an insight, and are missing a way to emotionally connect with consumers. We've seen this a lot recently in several new advertising campaigns where it feels like the spots are for entertainment purposes only. Sure, these programs may gather attention and generate buzz, but do they resonate enough with the consumer to get participation? Look hard at your program, because unless there's an emotional insight that leads to a compelling hook, it's likely to fall flat. A desire to save money with a downloadable coupon isn't an insight, nor is a product claim or rational benefit. Take a look at the new Johnson's Baby campaign called “You're Doing OK, Mom,” – now that's an insight!

Inconsistency. I am a big believer that much of our jobs as marketers is making good decisions based on our knowledge of our consumer and well-crafted brand equity. Consumer perceptions of a brand are created with each interaction, and if those interactions are inconsistent or the result of poor brand choices, then the consumer gets confused and turns away. One bad experience out of an entire marketing mix is enough to cause a program to fail.

The most easily navigated website in the world does no good when the consumer can't find the product at retail. The most compelling piece of advertising won't do a lick of good if it has a completely different tone and visual identity from the website. And the most intriguing social media campaign will turn sour if the product doesn't perform as promised. The key to an effective program is wise decision-making about the consistent use of touch points that make the most sense. They must connect effectively and emotionally with the consumer along a continuous experience.

No call to action. I know we are supposed to be all about engagement these days, but honestly, engagement only works when there's an explicit call to action. If you are not asking the consumer to do something, then your program is going to get clicked off. The call to action can be as simple as “visit a webpage” or “tell us your experience.” Just be careful not to open a can of worms, as we discussed on Monday – consumers are not shy about sharing their experiences. But in any manner, if your marketing program doesn't specifically ask the consumer to do something that will lead to a sale, then I am afraid your efforts may be in vain.

Catching these three warning signs, as well as the ones we covered yesterday, will take you a long way toward creating a positive brand experience and a marketing program that will produce results.

On Friday, for the last post in this series, we will examine how to proactively prevent any of these warning signs from happening in the first place. Stay tuned and happy marketing!

Jim Joseph is president of North America at Cohn & Wolfe, a professor at New York University, and author of The Experience Effect series.

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