Putting Digital Marketing ‘Campaigns’ To Bed

June 8, 2018
Aaron Wynne

If you came to me and said, “I’ll give you a million dollars if you can tell me the single word you’ve used the most in the last four years at Traffika” other than ‘coffee’ I think it’d be a relatively easy guess and I bet most digital marketers would have the same answer… campaign.

In all due respect to the word, it doesn’t really mean much, at least not anymore. It’s become a throwaway label for anything to do with marketing activity and, in an advertising sense, it’s more than likely a throwback to the Mad Men days of a team sitting around a room, drinking scotch, coming up with the next full-page newspaper spread. It has become such a part of the marketing lexicon that there are companies named after it, job titles are a hotbed for the term, platforms and martech products dish it out like candy and at the end of the day, it means very little.

The most simplistic definition I could find summed up campaign as ‘working towards a goal’. So, when someone in the marketing world says I would like to run a Facebook Campaign, what is the goal? Because unless the goal is to get something live on Facebook, I would suggest the term is being incorrectly used. On top of that, the rate at which the industry changes, platform functionality updates, competitor activity zigs and zags – for many marketers knowing you are actually working towards anything is increasingly difficult.

I genuinely believe us as marketers aren’t in the business of running campaigns, we are in the business of running experiments – some are just more educated than others.

While it might seem initially like it’s just a matter of switching out the word, it actually means a lot more than that. Campaign, in the truest sense, means if we do 1, 2, 3 we will reach our goal (or at least be closer to it) and, in a world, when consumer behaviour moves faster than I can write this article, that’s simply not the case. Furthermore, campaigns, by default, rely on the same tried and tested methods or it would be impossible to give a clear outcome. Experiments on the other hand are far more sophisticated than that and arguably offer far more value. Running an experiment starts with analysing data, previous learnings and outcomes. By assessing the available suite of touchpoints and channels available to us we can then start hypothesising a result of proposed activity before building a strategic plan to execute the experiment in a bid to see if our hypothesis rings true. But the experiment isn’t over just because the media has run out, it then comes down to analysing the results, drawing learnings and meaning from the observations so they can be rolled into the next.

Moving into a world of experiments for marketers is scary because it suggests that the outcome is unclear but I would argue this has always been the case. Anyone who can guarantee the outcome of a ‘campaign’ is either setting the bar very low or they’re talking out of their…hat. The faster an organisation can embrace the value of learnings and is comfortable with being uncomfortable, the faster they are going to start identifying areas their competitors have missed.

If you’d like to move your organisation towards running educated experiments, empowering your internal team or would just like to have a chat, contact the Traffika team today.