Don’t Expect Campaigns to Disappear Anytime Soon

Sometimes I wonder about supposed technology trends that are discussed. One of the latest trends I am hearing about is the death of the marketing campaign.

Marketing technologists and analysts say that new tools will put an end to the dreaded campaign. My response? Don’t bet on it.

In the mid 2000s, this meme emerged for the first time. Then, the end of the marketing campaign was a Cluetrain Manifesto-esque railing against corporate treatment of customers. Thanks to social media, corporations would be forced to talk to customers, one to one.

What ended up happening was a new way for brands to cultivate loyalists, customers used a different public channel to complain (hello, Twitter!), and an immense amount of data was created. As for the marketing campaign, it now includes social media.

This time, contextual media and broken funnels drive the meme. Automation solutions will use data created from social media, and companies will be forced to create Choose Your Own Adventure content and lead paths to better serve customers. Global campaigns will end, forcing niche campaigns.

Sound familiar? I think so, too, though a bit more realistic than the one-to-one argument from the prior decade.

Why Campaigns Won’t End

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Marketing automation will empower companies to create strong niche campaigns as opposed to deploying one-size fits all efforts. Though customized and more targeted, this will not end the campaign, rather make it more sophisticated with better tools.

The problem with ending campaigns is threefold. First, marketing campaign critics always address the matter from the perspective of the customer. They forget that campaigns are often a function of corporate budgets and anticipated profits. The same could be send for nonprofits and annual fundraising.

Budgets and revenue are time-bound, especially for public companies. This creates a compelling reason to develop specific campaigns within budget that achieve the necessary results, all to satisfy shareholders, owners, and keep companies and nonprofits alive.

Second, customers don’t react to campaigns, say the pundits. Well, actually customers just don’t like marketing period, but they do react to campaigns when they need/want a product or service. What the Internet evolutions of the recent past have shown us through tracking is a much more sophisticated non-linear sales cycle.

OK. So, that tells me that marketing campaigns will become more sophisticated, with better tools (automation, for example), more transmedia options for customers to accesss information, and more specified messaging. But like the social media era, the campaign evolves. It doesn’t disappear.

Finally, campaigns address a human need on both the customer and the company side of the equation: A desire for new. Whether it’s a mobile phone, a car, or a software solution, people have come to expect new evolutions from their current provider and competitors alike. Similarly, new products and services drive growth and competition amongst companies.

Guess how new products and services are launched? You got it, with campaigns. Customers may not like marketing, but they like the same old boring marketing campaign even less. The campaign helps fulfill the core need of new.

Until Wall Street ends quarterly expectations and companies and nonprofits stop functioning on an annual budget; the ability to adapt to customer expectations disappears; and the need for new things ends; marketing campaigns are here to stay. I’ll check back with the pundits in the 22nd century.

What do you think?

A version of this post ran originally on the Vocus blog.

  • Jason Jue

    Agree that they won’t end, there will be product launches, calendars, and budgets. But, I believe that even these things driving media spend are decreasing. Maybe just semantics, I would bet that they will decline as the dominant focus as campaigns are defined today. I’m ready to make a bet!

    • geofflivingston

      Bet on, per Twitter. LOL!

  • susancellura

    Why does everything have to end or “die”? But that is a question for another day. To me, it’s all about evolution. Some companies, brands and customers are evolving faster than others. I agree that it’s a vicious cycle regarding Wall Street expectations, etc., but what is wrong about having a plan of attack or in other words, a “campaign”? Perhaps I’m interpreting it differently than you, but it’s already been proven that the “oreo dunk” moment on Twitter cannot be made to happen for every single brand or product. I submit that a campaign, set up with a strategy, action/implementation plan, and measurement, will stay.

    • geofflivingston

      You have to start from somewhere, and that’s the inevitable reality of doing anything. I totally agree with you. Thank you for the great comment!

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