Kill The Campaign, Embrace Improvisation

Today I was thinking about how most people treat marketing and PR. And my reaction is most treat it as this immutable thing that is more static and final than it should be. What I mean by this is they think it is imperative to construct a perfect, finished product and then, eventually, ship it. As if it has to be flawless first.

And that’s absurd. You can shape copy forever. You can overthink each bit of content. You can apply silly, self-imposed rules or brand guidelines. Guess who cares? You, and not a single other person. Not one.

Campaign thinking is wrong

Campaign is a word that really bothers me because it is just not accurate to describe effective modern marketing. The term really needs to go away because it perpetuates a notion that you spend all this time to once in awhile release something static. If you’re doing that, of course you’re way behind competitors in organic marketing.

Campaign thinking is from an era it was expensive to share information with your customers. It used to make sense to be perfect because you were always in a position you had to rent the channels of others. And if you’re still in that mindset you’re thinking small. It is more scalable and provides far greater returns to become media yourself.

Don’t try to predict success, get iterative

Back when campaigns ruled, it was expensive to fail. That’s no longer the world we live in, if you’re structured in the right way it’s cheap to fail. Not in your strategy but in the tactics you execute daily. At first, some will be successful, some not so much, but use data to improve bit by bit and improvise as you go.

Stop being afraid to mess up

If you get agile with your marketing you are going to be imperfect. Guess what? Human beings are imperfect and that’s what we connect with on the web: other humans. The company willing to make a mistake and then go with it is going to win against the ones afraid of their own shadow. There will be mistakes. The old guard of marketing would flip out with this notion, of realizing a mistake in the name of agility is fine. But it’s exactly what you need to do.

If you mess up, fix it and move on. Don’t let it stop you from shipping. I’ve thought about this (and tested it!) and people always prefer ideas that have personality first and are perfect last. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about actually caring and putting emotion into what you’re doing.

Improvisation means no more marketing drones

In the future we won’t need marketing drones anymore. Cranking out boilerplate copy or executing templated campaigns is a thing of the past. This means that if you’re not willing to improvise and think on your toes you aren’t cut out for marketing any longer.

Modern marketing is about an ongoing, unfolding story you tell bit by bit every day. It’s about thinking beyond Facebook and Twitter and defining an effective mix of creative tactics you can build upon that accrues equity. You need to be part analyst and data-driven, but also have enough confidence to lead.

Improvisation only occurs when you’re fluent

Imagine a talented musician performing with their group. The best moments aren’t the parts they have prepared beforehand. They are the parts where the musician tries new things and pushes the envelope. But only talented musicians are able to do this and achieve a beautiful, improvisational tangent. That’s what your marketing team should look like: smart, talented, unafraid to break rules, try new things and improvise.