Campaign thinking v. brand thinking.

June 1, 2014

There is a fundamental issue that keeps coming up in our industry. We’ve heard it from potential clients. We’ve seen it time and time again in the marketplace. And brands continue to paint themselves in a corner by not understanding the sometimes subtle, sometimes stark difference between building a brand and executing a campaign. The basic premise is this: your brand transcends any initiative or moment in time. It is the foundation for which a campaign is launched, but the reverse should never be true. A campaign, built in a vacuum, might be perfectly effective for a time, but creates brand chaos if not built as part of the larger brand story. We find that the “older school” the agency, the more likely they will approach any assignment through campaign thinking first. How will you know? Breaking it down simplistically:

 

Campaign thinking:
Reacts to your latest initiative without regard to brand foundation.

Brand thinking:
Takes the long view. Includes never-wavering brand values. It creates your position in the marketplace that you are committed to staking.

 

Campaign thinking:
What’s hot right now. How can I best take advantage? This is appropriate, but can never be at the risk of becoming your brand.

Brand thinking:
What will always be relevant. What are you going to be in 5 years, 10 years? Is it accommodating?

 

Campaign thinking:
A new tagline every media budget cycle.

Brand thinking:
A tagline that will last 10-plus years.

 

Campaign thinking:
Starting from scratch every year. Advertising the latest feature.

Brand thinking:
Creating a community, building a fan base. Communicating a customer-centric thought.

 

Campaign thinking:
Traditional agency thinking: find a way to reinvent (and thus re-invoice) every year.

Brand thinking:
New agency standard: Stewardship. Finding a way to simplify and clarify over time.

 

Campaign thinking:
Reacting to competitors, treating them as moving targets.

Brand thinking:
Transcending your competitors. Inventing a new language. Creating a new standard and living up to it.

 

Campaign thinking:
RFP/spec work/creative shoot out.

Brand thinking:
Gathering voice of customer. Testing. Being patient. Crafting a solution based on information.

 

Campaign thinking:
Media-specific application.

Brand thinking:
Transcends media choices. Applicable to any.

 

You get the idea. But don’t get me wrong – the two ways of thinking are not mutually exclusive. Brand thinking still requires highly creative campaigns, but it insists that you do so in a manner that is consistent, informed, and will fit into a larger dialogue.

At least that’s our thinking.