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5 signs your marketing campaign is missing its mark

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Remember the last blockbuster ad campaign? A brilliant, creative concept is often at the heart of great marketing. But sometimes the creativity can go too far and what seems like a breakthrough idea leads to a marketing effort that misses its target and confuses its audience.

Here are five signs a new marketing campaign is a little too creative to succeed, and some tips for how to avoid making these mistakes in your own marketing strategy.

1. A mismatch with the brand. Some ideas are very clever and attention-getting but have no relationship to the branding strategy. If an idea doesn’t feel like it’s something your customers would expect to see from your brand—and shaking up their perceptions of your brand isn’t your goal—trust your instincts and ask for another idea. 2. Overshadowing the product. Some creative concepts are so strong that you remember the ad but forget the product. My favorite example is the Kevin Bacon ad for Logitech. The concept—a crazed Kevin Bacon fan played by Kevin Bacon—is hilarious, but the ad fails because the product gets lost. All you remember is Kevin Bacon.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

3. Genuine weirdness that has to be explained to be understood. Wacky and weird can be very effective in marketing (ads for Old Spice are great examples), but when the concept is so out there that you and your staff don’t get it until the agency explains it to you, be wary. Ask others (especially customers) what they think, and if most people scratch their heads, move on.
4. It’s only great in large sizes. What’s effective in a full-size or full-length ad might not work in a different format. More and more marketing is being viewed on very small screens. Before you sign off on a campaign, ask your agency to show you how the concept will be executed in every format and viewed on every type of device.
5. Burying the call to action. Maybe it’s my bias as a direct marketer, but I can never understand creative approaches that downplay the call to action by hiding it in a forgotten corner or using a font size that’s too small. The phone number, website or Facebook page the prospect must use to respond to the offer needs to be easy to find and easy to read.

The reason companies spend money on marketing is to sell products and services. Your marketing agency or creative team might love something that’s drop-dead clever, fanciful or artistic, but if it doesn’t help sell, you may be buying art for art’s sake.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at


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