7 ways to rekindle the marketing flame

An art director acquaintance of mine kept the Smokey Bear campaign fresh for 22 years. How? He followed the seven steps listed here.

It happens to all of us. You work hard at your job, day by day, marketing your wares or services. You’re committed, of course, even devoted to your craft. But the luster isn’t what it used to be.

Perhaps the relationship you have with your marketing job can use a little romance… an intellectual getaway… a fresh bouquet of thinking.

I once knew an art director who worked on the Smokey the Bear annual posters for 22 years. More than two decades of basically a stoic bear in a hat saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Talk about potential burn out.

Yet, every year, he and his team managed to keep the message and imagery fresh. He shared with me his secrets for keeping things bright eyed and bushy tailed. And over the years, others in marketing, agencies and PR firms shared their insights with me, too. All had slightly different takes, but their advice basically came down to seven approaches…

  1. There’s no such thing as one right answer. Growing up in school, most of us are heavily conditioned to think there’s a single, right answer to a problem. In fact, most problems have many answers… and this is especially true when it comes to marketing. If you’re looking for ways to connect with a target audience, don’t just settle for the first answer that comes to you—look for a second, third and more. Many times, your best idea will come if you push yourself just a bit further.
  2. Change the question. Let’s say you need to promote a product that’s facing heavy competition. Most marketers would ask the obvious question, How can we gain more market share? That question leads you down a certain path, for sure. Now imagine if we changed the question to, How can more customers find out about this product? That’s a whole different direction—one your competitors may not be asking. Change the question, and your marketing compass will follow suit.
  3. Gather competitive intelligence. Collect competitors’ ads and brochures. Read their blogs and tweets. Watch their YouTube channel. And while you’re at it, look at your industry’s marketing as a whole. Many times, “Me too” marketing prevails and everyone starts looking and sounding the same. How many car commercials have you seen with an automobile hair-pinning it through a mountain road or the desert? Do something different. Please.
  4. Don’t gather competitive intelligence. Want a fresh perspective? Pick up a magazine, turn on the TV or scour the internet for marketing messages from a totally different industry. It’s amazing, for example, what a clothing company can teach you about marketing to women. Be open to things that have nothing to do with your problem—and it may open up new worlds for you.
  5. Be not afraid! We live in a world of committee approval, driven by an overriding fear of angering someone, forgetting someone, legal problems, and on and on. The common result is marketing that claws its way to the middle, perfectly safe—and forgettable. The most memorable campaigns in history usually took a risk and subsequently changed everything. Be a trailblazer. If your agency comes back with some edgy stuff, try putting your fears aside and think instead in terms of impact. You may just break new ground.
  6. Ask a colleague who’s a bit removed. Once you or your agency have come up with a marketing approach, break out of the regular circle of people you show things to. Find someone who has nothing to do with the problem, and ask him or her for thoughts. Show ad concepts to the CFO. Run the logo revision by that funny dude in Human Resources. You don’t have to follow what they say, but fresh eyes can sometimes lead to marketing miracles.
  7. Think like a kid. When my son was little, he and I were working on some homework one night. It was a project on Russia, and we were charged with coming up with something different, something cool. I said to him, “Son, we have to think outside the box on this one.” He looked at me, puzzled, and asked, “There’s a box?” I then watched in amazement as he came up with a plethora of freshly picked stuff: a glow-in-the-dark poster, a diorama of St. Basil’s made from Legos®, a CD of Russian music, to name a few. Follow his lead! Take your inhibitions and banish them to Siberia.

So there you have it. Seven ways to keep the marketing flame ablaze. Smokey would be proud.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group.

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