Growth Insights for CEOs

Forward. Forward? Forward

Posted by The Chief Outsider


In case you missed it, this is President Obama’s new re-election campaign slogan.  And there is a lot of debate about its meaning because of the little punctuation mark at the end. The buzz made front page news in the Wall Street JournalChief Outsiders Comments on Forward Campaign

last week. According to the article, the word “was chosen to reflect the direction Mr. Obama wants to take the country if re-elected." However, some have interpreted the additional punctuation mark as “Slamming on the brakes on a word that conveys momentum."

As a Marketer, having worked with advertising agencies, I would love to have been a “fly on the wall” to hear the arguments on the merits of the “period."  No doubt it was hotly debated before they decided to “pull the trigger."  

So what might a CEO of a small to mid-sized company think of this?

That President Obama’s campaign team does not know what they are doing. Quite the contrary. The team is well aware of the effectiveness of the campaign. The campaign definitely cuts through the clutter; the question is whether it is persuasive. The process of creating good advertising that drives awareness of your brand and persuades your customers to “buy” is something that all brands / businesses, and in this case a presidential candidate, should strive for.

Having created many highly persuasive advertising campaigns over the years, including consumer feedback as part of the loop is critical. The steps to creating persuasive advertising, be it TV, print, or on-line, is as follows:  

  • Write the creative brief - The first step is to draft a creative brief outlining the communication objective, the reason to believe, the target audience, plus any relevant consumer insight about the target and the way they think or act that will help your consumer see the message is for them.
  • Review the creative and ensure the campaign is “on-strategy” – The agency develops a range of work that creatively interprets the brief. The key questions to ask when reviewing the work are: What is your gut reaction to the creative (does it stop you, do you like it, did it make you laugh, etc.)? And is it on strategy?
  • Get consumer feedback (both qualitative and quantitative) to make the campaign more powerful– After narrowing down the work, it is prudent to have your consumer (customer) weigh-in to determine: What is the key message? Do they remember the brand/product, not just the creative? Does it break through the clutter? And more importantly, does it persuade? Using both qualitative (Focus Groups) and quantitative copy testing will help you improve the creative and how it will perform with your target audience.
  • Bid, shoot and test again – The cost of producing any advertising can be expensive. So before beginning production, consider bidding the work to get the best price. Also, be sure to vet the creative to ensure that it meets legal and regulatory requirements. Nothing is worse than spending money and then discovering the claim is not supported. After the ad is finished, test it again to ensure that it is a good interpretation of what was originally tested with consumers. This is especially important if you have a large media budget supporting the campaign.

While this approach is not foolproof, it does help ensure you get good creative that is on-strategy. While I don’t know the process that the Obama campaign team used, I am quite sure they tested “Forward” before rolling it out and that it is effective at cutting through the clutter. Whether they decide to continue to keep the “period” is open to debate. New ads are now being aired without the punctuation mark. The more important question is whether the ad is persuasive and we will have to wait until November to answer that question. 

What’s your reaction to the “Forward.” campaign? 

(Be sure to also see my commentary on Mitt Romney's running mate strategy)

Follow Chief Outsiders on Twitter @ChiefOutsiders

Topics: Marketing Implementation

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