How Big Idea Marketing Can Live on in Data-Driven Storytelling

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

big idea marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

But did the advertising work? Did it achieve a client business objective? Did it engage customers and produce sales, orders, leads …? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Back then, only direct marketers cared about measurement.

How Data Has Changed Advertising … Forever

Enter data. Well, data entered the advertising marketplace when direct mail and direct selling made its debut. But not to discount direct mail pioneers and their cousins in direct-response print and broadcast and telemarketing, let’s fast forward to the digital era. Wow! Today, do we have data!

Combine that creative genius with a heavy dose of data insights and strategy, and now we have data-driven creative — where creative effort is measured against action. No more gut instincts and guesswork. Agencies and in-house marketing departments can prove that their creative ideation works and, in fact, can use prospect and customer data to drive the creative ideation to predict and produce defined business outcomes.

Is there still a role for big idea marketing? Of course! In fact, breakthrough creative is indeed a mechanism for breaking clutter. But now, we have the means for one more de-clutter breakthrough: relevance. Using data insights to drive strategy, combined with compelling creative and storytelling, and now we’re proving our C-suite mettle.

There’s a role for creative festivals.

Rethinking Ad Festivals

But how about a data festival … or a data-driven storytelling festival? Well, we may just have one, and it’s been around for a while. It’s the International ECHO Award Competition, with its call for entries now underway. (I’m a member of the Data & Marketing Association ECHO Board of Governors.)

If an agency today is not proving its command of creative, data and relevance, then it’s not proving its presence as a business driver — no matter how many creative trophies are in the case. Winning an ECHO is different. It’s always been about data-driven storytelling, and it’s always been about strategy, creative AND results, more or less in equal measure. ECHOs serve as proof points for agencies, and in-house marketing teams, that they have data chops. They serve as signals to C-suites that ECHO winners are trusted business partners who know ad tech, martech, data management platforms, analytics prowess and have a discipline to test and measure — all in equal faith to the creative big idea.

Left brain, right brain. Yes, there’s still necessary discussion today about data, measurement and unfettered creative. But in today’s world, we can have both creative and relevance through data. In fact we must have both to capture elusive consumer attention, and to produce action … to prove our worth.

This roster of agencies let’s fast forward — and their agency groups let’s fast forward — have been named ECHO Award finalists, and Diamond, Gold, Silver and Bronze ECHO trophy winners in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Who will be joining them in 2018? In October, in Las Vegas, we’ll find out.

Credit: DMA

Discovering the Big Idea

What’s holding you back from creating your next breakthrough marketing campaign? It’s probably you. Why? Because instead of coming up with a new big idea that you can test, you may be just shuffling the same deck of cards. So how do you discover the big idea? Here are a few …

Content Creation IdeasWhat’s holding you back from creating your next breakthrough marketing campaign? It’s probably you. Why? Because instead of coming up with a new big idea that you can test, you may be just shuffling the same deck of cards. So how do you discover the big idea? Here are a few tips.

Copywriters and marketing professionals see a lot of copy. And it must be evaluated. The trap is in deceiving yourself that “breaking through” is simply rearranging the words from a past promo and calling it new. Fact is, this approach isn’t likely to produce a new winner.

Recently I evaluated copy from several seminar attendee copywriters where I presented a client case study and the challenge to write a subject line, headline and lead for an email promo. They only had about a day to work on it. The copywriters who had their game on were those who spun an existing message into a new idea, metaphor, perspective, or story.

That’s what I was looking for, because a new, big idea, has the power to beat a control. I believe it’s because big ideas create new memory for a prospective customer. Turned into long-term memory with a follow-up, longer-form message, the big idea has better odds of converting into a sale.

Ideas sell. Here are a few tips about how you might identify a big idea worthy of testing:

  • Interview customers — or better — interview prospective customers and ask what it will take to earn their business. Phone calls are good; focus groups can be better. Ask them why they buy. Then, ask them a follow-up “why?” to peel back the layers.
  • If you’re a marketer, you surely have data — all kinds of data ranging from demographics to behavioral information. Examine your data through a new lens to inspire yourself and imagine the possibilities for a new big idea.
  • Look at the characteristics of your best customers. You know, the Pareto Principle; often simply called the “80/20 rule.”
  • What are your competitors doing? But don’t knock them off. Steal smart, add your own twist and rise above them.

Conversations with peers and co-workers can also inspire copywriters and marketers. Ask “what if” questions. Ask “why” questions. Ask what the driving emotion is that tips a prospect into becoming a customer.

Then, let your copywriter digest the research, discussion and background materials, and take a step back with these “4 Ways to Get Creative” to let the big idea reveal itself.

Gary Hennerberg gives you the detail of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com.

Disrupting Entrenched Marketing Ideas

Disruptive technologies can fundamentally shift a business’s trajectory. But what about disruptive marketing ideas? Continuity-marketer Dollar Shave Club didn’t disrupt the technology of razors, but they disrupted the distribution channel with monthly shipping of razor blades direct to the consumer. DSC chipped away at the dominance of retail competitors even if DSC sales were only …

Disruptive technologies can fundamentally shift a business’s trajectory. But what about disruptive marketing ideas? Continuity-marketer Dollar Shave Club (DSC) didn’t disrupt the technology of razors, but they disrupted the distribution channel with monthly shipping of razor blades direct to the consumer. DSC chipped away at the dominance of retail competitors even if DSC sales were only 5 percent of the U.S. market with 3.2 million members.

https://youtu.be/JbsJPO-ZreM

So now we learn that Unilever is purchasing the unprofitable (as of yet) Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.

Procter and Gamble sees the writing on the wall of disruptive marketing and is testing a continuity program named Tide Wash Club, where P&G will ship Tide Pod capsules via an online subscription service. The question is: Is P&G perceived by consumers as too entrenched in retail distribution? Or will Amazon beat them to the punch with something better, like Amazon Dash?

Disruptive Marketing Ideas: Amazon Dash ButtonsAmazon Dash buttons enable the user to replenish a growing list of consumables in the home, bypassing the phone or computer. Just press the button you stick on most any surface in your home and Amazon will ship your order. Here’s a pretty good summary article on the Dash Button.

As direct marketers, we might say to one another that these are more examples of a shift in distribution channels, going direct-to-consumer.

But I think there’s a bigger message for marketers of all kinds:

Someday, you and your business could be blindsided with a disruptive technology or disruptive marketing ideas from a competitor.

What does it take to get in front of the kind of change that can put you out of business? You must vanquish entrenched establishment thinking and determine how to get in front of either disruptive technology or marketing approaches.

The thought process I suggest you begin with is to lock yourselves in a room, offsite if you can, taking zero interruptions and have a deep discussion covering at least these six topics:

  1. What new big idea — technology or marketing — could disrupt your business? Think big and let your imagination roll.
  1. Will the big idea you identify change behavior? An idea is only as good as your strategy to change behavior from “the way it’s always been done” to a new approach. Dollar Shave Club created a marketing video that went viral and launched their direct-to-consumer business. Consider that once someone had the Amazon experience of purchasing a book or other merchandise online, it changed behavior. Same with Uber: the first time riding in a stranger’s private vehicle may have been a bit uncomfortable, but once you had a good experience, why would you go back to riding with surly cab drivers and unpredictable fares?
  1. What are your competitors thinking? Unless you have sources inside a competitor or other public information, project their past actions into the future for possible insights.
  1. Think broadly between qualitative and quantitative. That is, what is the intangible emotion you might produce from a new idea, and at what point do you monetize and quantify the change?
  1. What do you anticipate as the core emotional response from your prospects and customers from a disruptive technology or marketing?
  1. Go on offense. How can an emerging, disruptive technology help you leapfrog your competitors before they get wind of it, or have committed to testing it?

If you’re serious about getting in front of disruptive technology and marketing, start now before you find yourself losing market share and sales. Find a meeting moderator who can challenge your entrenched thinking and bring out the best and brightest ideas from your staff or consultants. And don’t stop there: customers are often your best resource for ideas of how you can serve them better.

My new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code” is available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore. Or download my free seven-step guide to help you align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks. It’s titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.”