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Not the Medium, Not the Message

Before you get to that point, you need to get to this.

Marshall McLuhan was wrong. He wasn’t wrong at the time – the 1960s – but his maxim has not held up well over the decades. It’s the message that matters, regardless of the medium, and today that message gets re-purposed in numerous types of media (a concept that may also change as media converges).

Yet choosing both the message and the medium in which that message will initially appear takes more than a flash of inspiration. Those flashes tend to vanish in (yes) a flash. For ideas and their expression – in words and images – to endure requires the kind of long range vision that emerges from a comprehensive strategy.

Durability
Of course, B2B customers and B2C consumers can be fickle. They may pounce on new campaigns only to abandon them (like birds that are attracted to monarch butterflies and instantly learn that they taste awful); Kinko’s “The New Way to Office” is a perfect example. Or they may adopt characters like the Geico Gecko, Progressive’s Flo, Apple’s Get A Mac guys (“Hi, I’m a Mac.” “And I’m a PC.”), and IBM’s Chaplin character (to launch the IBM PC) and eagerly await the next ad.

Great B2B campaigns are harder to find, but only because they tend to be focused on a single target. I’ve seen superb work done in agriculture and industrial trade publications (both print and online) that are the equal of any consumer ads, including direct mail, email, video, and social.

The Foundation
Behind each of those long-running successes, however, is a clear set of objectives and the strategies to achieve them. They’re usually not arcane. They can be as simple as “Increase awareness of and preference for Product A to gain market share among Category X companies by using a combination of industry-specific advertising and news releases targeted at both trade and business press.”

With that foundation, coming up with the tactical building blocks is easy. To increase awareness, for example, you first have to determine the current level of recognition. That takes some research. The same is true for existing preferences and what it would take to lure a customer away. And the results may vary among the companies in Category X which, in turn, might suggest the need for slightly different messaging and separate campaigns.

In Practice
Here’s an example. A tech client had a new, web-based service that would be implemented by IT but used by line-of-business staff. The business advantages were virtually identical, and the initial instinct was to create a single campaign for everyone. Yet, we took a step back to develop a strategic approach that restricted the scope of the initial market, expanded the awareness objective to ensure that the IT and LOB targets were motivated to try the service, and incorporated specific metrics for trials, conversions, and revenue.

From there, we determined the ideal outcomes that the two groups expected, recognized that there was likely to be overlap in the media used by each, and created a two-pronged launch campaign – one aimed at IT, one at LOB, and both sharing the primary advantages (simplicity and flexibility) – that was released a week before a major trade show. The booth was overrun. Even a competitor stopped by to say, “I wish we had a campaign like that.”

Reduced to its essence, the approach comes down to this: the better directions, the faster you’ll get where you’re going – using the right message in the most appropriate media.

About the author

Peter Altschuler's picture

BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer

Peter Altschuler has been making products and services irresistible for more than a generation in a career that extends from high technology to television production.

He’s currently the chief marketing and creative strategist at Wordsworth & Company and has served as a Group Creative Director at San Francisco ad agency Anderson & Lembke, run the in-house agency at Candle Corp (now part of IBM) and, earlier, worked in television, producing for ABC News, Sesame Workshop, The Food Network, and PBS.
   
In his spare time, he brings books to life — most recently narrating Getting Religion by former Newsweek religion editor Kenneth Woodward and Creativity, Inc. by Pixar founder Ed Catmull — and performs in everything from Shakespeare to commercials.

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