April 03, 2006
Blog Entry

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Marketing Campaign: Politics, Ego, & Boredom

SUMMARY: No summary available.
by Anne Holland, President

Have you ever created a campaign that generated truly outstanding results … only to see it cut or altered beyond recognition a little while later? I'm pretty sure it's happened to a lot of us.

For example, after I presented a Case Study on a high-responding ecommerce campaign at trade show last year, a gentleman came up to introduce himself. "I'm the marketer who did that campaign, it's a pleasure to meet in person. Unfortunately, since we last talked, the campaign's been discontinued," he said.

"Why?!" I asked. "The president didn't like it, so we just don't do it anymore," he explained. "I know, I know, it doesn't make any sense. Politics, I guess."

In my experience, the problem of canning or altering campaigns that work comes down to one of three causes:

#1. Boredom -- The marketing department is bored of the creative, the offer, whatever. They figure (often without any evidence) the marketplace must be bored too. Anyway, newer is always better, right?

#2. Ego/salary justification -- A new marketer, agency, or president has come on board and they want to put their personal stamp on the campaign.

#3. Politics -- Power have changed hands somewhere internally and whoever now has it wants to pull a few strings or make changes for pet projects/pet peeves, regardless of how it affects marketing results.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for testing new tactics as well as testing tweaks to already proven campaigns. But, the key word is TESTING. Keep marketing campaigns that are already proven to work as your control. Test new ideas against the control. Then roll out the winner and then start testing again.

If you're from the traditional direct response world, you're rolling your eyes and saying, "Duh" right now. You're no doubt remembering such famous controls as the 'Wall Street Journal's' two young men package that ran for almost 20 years.

Boredom, ego and politics weren't allowed to kill that campaign before its time because all that mattered was:

o did it still reflect the brand accurately?

o was it still generating better response than anything tested against it?

What's causing this particular rant? Well, I had the flu pretty bad last week and so, I took a breather from editing new stories every day and re-published one of my all-time favorite classic Case Studies. (Link below.)

It's about building a microsite that generates loads of leads. I quickly clicked over to that site to check that it was still live since we first published the story. It was. But it was changed, to my mind horribly. Given what I know from publishing more than 500 Case Studies on marketing, the changes have reduced the microsite's effectiveness.

Why was the site changed? I'll bet one of the three reasons came into play. One thing is for certain, I'll bet no one did a split traffic test first to see if the tweaked format worked better than the old one.

I feel pretty bad outing what I consider to be bad marketing here. Our job at Sherpa is to be supportive and applaud great marketing, not to diss marketers who, sometimes through no fault of their own, are forced to do the wrong thing.

So, I apologize and hope not to do it again. Rant over.

=== Follow-up:

Here's a note I received from MarketingSherpa reader Raquel Hirsch of HIRSCH STRATEGIES INC. (www.HirschStrategies.com) in response to the above blog.


Thank you, thank you, thank you for outing the ‘dirty little secret’!

In my (humble) opinion, it’s not “politics” or “boredom” that allows organizations to make irrational marketing decisions. It’s marketers’ lack of discipline to align marketing and advertising with the business model and fully understand how their employer makes money and how marketing decisions impact that model.

As a result, when budget-cutting time rolls around, marketers have no data to defend what the CFO sees as the largest pool of unallocated dollars. And when a bored (?) CEO decides the current campaign, microsite, or whatever is “tired” and needs "refreshing," marketers have no data to protect the current tactic or strategy. Of course, this comes at a price: marketers continue to complain they “get no respect” in their organizations.

As long as marketers remain enamored of the "creative" and not strive to take a more pragmatic (dare I say, “scientific”?) approach to marketing execution via testing and optimization, and as long as a marketers cannot clearly articulate the impact of marketing decisions on revenues and profitability, they will be left to the vagaries and vicissitudes of “boredom” and “politics” –- and will continue to “get no respect” in the organization."

==== Here's that story link I promised: case study: 5 Best Practices to Create a High-Impact Sales Lead Generation Web Site http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2662 (Open access until April 9th)

P.S. If you're wondering why I presumed the new microsite to be less effective, it's because there are far fewer calls to action and response devices running down the right hand and in the top middle. Fewer response devices almost invariably mean fewer responses.

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