Willy Stewart
Willy Stewart

4 minutes

'Planning a Campaign - Or At Least How Not To Make A Meal Of It'

It was a pretty cold day, so maybe some soup would help heat me up. Then again, chips would be warm as well, plus potato is a vegetable so does that count as one of my five a day? As they say though, ‘’a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’’, so how about I just get those chips in a reduced portion as part of a KFC meal - chicken is protein, protein is a macronutrient, body needs lots of that daily - the infernal path my mind takes when the mercury is tickled.

Given that Glasgow is pretty cold most days, I wish (as does my increasingly rotund figure) I could say my mind didn’t follow similar paths most days.... And my bank balance when I have that big holiday to save for…. And I guess I don’t want to be on the beach feeling self-conscious, they also say ‘’Summer bodies are made in the Winter’’ (I’m not deliberately quoting every personal trainer ever…). So this lavish lunch might make me feel temporarily warm and engorged, but it has effects further down the line which are unpleasant.

I’m not trying to assuage my lunch-choice guilt by shaming anyone who enjoys their food, but I think this daily dance is very transferable in the reality of campaign development through digital marketing, and how it is important to not only plan properly but to review your plan almost ex post facto. I looked at the weather, I knew it was cold, I prepared for what I’d needed, and I anticipated the outcomes to adjust my plan accordingly. By weighing up anticipated results by their positive, and negative impacts, I could analyse the impact of an expensive lunch on the short term vs the long term and develop a decision to most abley match my desires. All too often, campaign planning falls onto hopeful results and budgets, creating short term gains over lasting impression, rather than properly considering where you want to be retroactively and examining the positive and negative outcomes. Data has significant power, but also by virtue of knowing all lies it’s misinterpretation; that data is strict and rigid, that the honesty and fact it brings is inflexible in formulating a plan across the zeitgeist of campaign plans.

In successful campaigns, whether long-planned or reactive, strategy is tantamount to success. If we can anticipate any outcome, if we can plan any contingency, then any eventuality short of force majeure can be mitigated. ‘What if the message isn’t well received or doesn’t reach your preferred market segment’, ‘what if my budget on digital campaigns depletes by 3pm’, ‘what if my call to action is not an able conduit to my desired result’ and so forth. It’s always far easier to ask questions of yourself and your strategy than to be caught flat-footed when something goes wrong. Whether a small, local business or a multi-billion pound global conglomerate, history is replete across the entire marketing vista of campaigns which have gone horribly wrong because that depth and time to interrogate strategy - or simply the lack of strategy at all - wasn’t properly undertaken. As wisely spoken in ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu circa 500 b.c.: ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.’ I wonder how Sun Tzu would have approached his sumptuous lunchtime repast?

Any successful campaign must follow even a basic line of prior investigation:

  1. Goal setting and legacy planning (the end game). Who do we want this message to reach?
  2. The message and purpose to be distilled
  3. Segmentation and targeting - how do we reach these people?
  4. Primary and secondary review - what campaigns have we ran before on similar products, during similar times; what have my competitors done well or badly, social media scanning, what elements of this campaign can learn from history
  5. Budget and media analysis - what channels and opportunities are available
  6. Message refinement: how does our message resonate and how can it develop into a relationship whereby our target market enact our desired action?
  7. Channel and media selection to best unify our target market and our message
  8. Media schedule and planning

Through this type of depth and discourse analysis, we can begin to understand how our approach will run, and make sure those initial goals and legacies that are at the forefront of our campaign’s existence are met. From this, we have the data to make informed decisions on our strategy, we have the tools for success, however making use of this cacophony of information is critical in completing your planning job. Misinterpretation can be as condemnatory to success as no planning at all. You may have literary analysis which shows your targeted customers HATE what your competitors offered; how do you know that by virtue of this, your offering will be better received? If doctors make the worst patients, then in a world where an encyclopaedia of knowledge on any subject the world over is available at our fingertips, there is a curse of knowing too much. A sore arm doesn’t mean a pending heart attack any more that a high bounce rate means consumers aren’t engaging with your website. The eternal caveat with data must always exist that interpretation and assimilation are fluid, that causality is not predefined.

As a data analyst for Parachute and as a marketer, that’s always crucial to bare in mind. When we prepare a campaign, whether a seasonal product focus with years of click through rates, impressions, conversions to pour over year on year or a reactive campaign to an event around the world, we look at the present, the past and the future to help create a campaign that isn’t just successful, but memorable. A campaign shouldn’t be ran just from habit, or because your competitor is doing something, but because it has a purpose and can provide an incentive or experience. We look at the effects it could have, what messages we want to get across, the legacy of these messages and the lasting impact the campaign can have to not only mitigate client expectations, but to refine and enhance them. The vagaries of the world are just that - considering my lunch once more, and in honour of unpredictability, in Glasgow it could rain and average 3 degrees Celsius all morning, then it’s ‘taps aff’ by mid-day - lunch becomes a charming sandwich on a park bench. We have all had the experience where something irksome happens, and it’s ‘goodbye diet’ and ‘hello quadruple cheeseburger and battered Mars Bar’ and been left with buyers remorse afterwards. Reactive campaigns can be the same for any organisation or their consumers and thriving on that experiential endgame is pivotal.

Campaign planning has to be adaptable and reactive, but anticipatory steps of integration and defining customer journeys beyond initial impact is subjective and can often belay the truth a campaign can bring. What must also be appreciated is that without being able to adjust or anticipate the end outcomes, then the activity itself becomes diluted, unenjoyable, rushed - and fall short of key objectives. If a short term gain over-extends budget or undercuts future revenue projections through a firesale, if a new customer drive alienates existing customers, if the engagement giveaway dilutes the quality or message frequency disengages brand resonance, these can be fatal to a campaign’s success beyond the immediacy.

Within Parachute, the holistic approach of campaign planning and interactivity from the marketing to the creative is designed to be in tune with our client’s hopes and expectations. Nothing is better than to tell a client that revenue had increased +50% or there was a 25% increase in new customers, but by being able to contextualise and envelop legacy planning to past, present, and future campaigns, we are confident in maintaining strong relationships across every touchpoint of a Parachute campaign.

Top 5 Things to remember when planning your Campaign:

  1. Remember the old adage… Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance!
  2. Set your goals out - what KPIs can measure this (revenue for success, new customers to your site etc.) What is the lasting message to be; how will this message bridge a relationship with your customers?
  3. Interrogate the data; scrutinise your plan - anticipate as many issues as possible, even those you can’t control, and develop contingencies
  4. Interpret the data forming your foundations from a distance and always be confident that the data is reliable, was there an underlying reason why ‘A’ was ‘A’ or that ‘B’ influenced ‘D’? Black isn’t always black (as Michael, our Creative Director taught me last week!)
  5. Keep a log of your process - this is a personal preference but whether it’s notes in Analytics or changes in Ads, the world rarely behaves as anticipated and Google won’t always tell the people analysing your results in ten years time how O2 lost data signal for 2 days or that Brexit was delayed on that specific day (now there’s a lesson about proper planning...) - the point is, when you have factors personal to your campaign today, then make sure they form tomorrow’s data analysis

  1. (I said 5 things but having planned for the contingency of a very important additional point...)  - when people go skydiving, they don’t rely on just one means to safely bring them back down to Earth, they usually plan well and have a back-up Parachute. Good planning can always use a Parachute.

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