By Alan Zorfas
The inspiration for this cartoon is the Hindenburg, an archetype loaded with calamitous inevitability. The marketing team portrayed here is ready to launch something big, and we already know the outcome. (Let’s face it: a cartoon about a campaign that comes in 17% under goal isn’t as entertaining!)
The C-level executive, only seconds before marketing cuts the cord, is downright scared. He assumes (and prays) that marketing has done its “homework” to justify this monumental, resource-draining event.
The eager marketer reminds him that they went overboard to prepare for the launch, hoping to temporarily relieve worry and get on with it.
This is a “moment of truth” you can really feel, especially if you’ve ever been part of the launch of a huge new campaign.
Great marketing is about taking risks. The Hindenburg did capture the public’s imagination. And the Hindenburg’s “equity” is still paying dividends. (According to Luxurylaunches.com, a surviving bottle of beer from the disaster recently sold for $8,350 per bottle.)
So, here’s one for the marketers, their courage, “sweaty palms” and risk-taking ways. Without them, there is no big sales “upside.” There is no memorable commercial. There is no social wave.
But, it can be made easier.
Yes, marketing requires a bit more courage because intelligence about what really motivates consumers can be a little sketchy. (For clarification, the problem is in no way the specific choice of Topeka for the focus groups.) Focus groups or other qualitative methods—combined with agency “brilliance”—can and do shape great campaigns. But an information gap persists, one we all experience, yet we don’t always see.
And that’s why doubt and uncertainty lurk beneath the surface. CMOs who, in poll after poll, express their desire for better metrics about consumers, know well this “moment of truth” when they go on the line to recommend a huge campaign investment. This moment repeats itself on a smaller scale as questions about brand, marketing expenditures and competing for consumer affection rise daily.
Most marketers I know do their homework. Problem is, most consumer intelligence hasn’t kept up with the times. It’s the marketer here who is the hero. She works really hard with the information available to her, rallies with enthusiasm, exercises courage and tries to move her brand and company forward. The fact that she doesn’t have intelligence about what really matters in motivating consumers on hand to share with the scared executive now, or months earlier, is a deficiency that most us feel on a daily basis.
Intelligence that bridges the gap between big emotionally-driven ideas and business outcomes could certainly lead to better campaign decisions. It can also deflate the pressure we all feel at launch time.