Challenges and solutions of the £500k Campaign Club

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Initials reflect on the biggest challenges around brands that deploy £500k on campaign budgets.

While budgetary firepower still counts, brands with limited resources have never had a better chance to get ahead of the game.

New marketplaces like Amazon, the widespread availability of micro- and signals-based targeting, the rise of social and the shift to an experience-led economy are all creating huge opportunities for members of the £500k Campaign Club.

By £500K Campaign Club, we mean those brands that are deploying campaign budgets of around half a million pounds. A decent budget, but one which demands real focus in order to ensure its potential is maximised. The bravest and most ambitious of these brands are creating radical change by subverting the prevailing norms; backing big and innovative ideas; and jumping quickly on opportunities whenever and wherever they emerge.

To better understand the dynamics at play, we recently asked an audience of leading brands at our £500k Campaign Club event series about both their challenges and solutions when it comes to executing campaigns at this budget level. This is what they had to say.

Challenge #1: What’s the best way to manage internal stakeholders who possess different objectives?

Bringing together different groups, each with their own objectives, and getting them to work together positively towards a common goal was cited as a key challenge.

One of the UK’s most popular insurance companies lamented the difficulty in “identifying the overarching business goal while managing channel teams who all have their own objectives and targets.” We saw this theme reflected by the head of content at a major British news corporation, who agreed that “the number of stakeholders involved in any campaign is a central challenge, with work starting out as one thing and ending up as something completely different.”

To combat these challenges, brands need to think about what will drive tomorrow - precisely who you need to think or act and how. You must then consider what is most likely to motivate that change. Rich areas might include current category friction points; new cultural aspirations; or trends that are surfacing in a different category but could translate relevantly to yours. Bringing a strong initial hypothesis will make for much richer and more productive discussions internally – especially if you’re open to your thinking being challenged and built on.

Challenge #2: How do we command attention in a saturated marketplace?

The fact of the matter is this: however intelligent your strategy, you’ll achieve nothing unless you can command attention in what is a massively noisy communications environment. This means delivering bold, courageous creative.

So, how do you test that? Think about what a particular idea allows you to do differently. Which aspects of our brand architecture does this idea elevate? How will it make people feel and behave differently?

Many big budget players rely on excessive repetition via blanket distribution in order to achieve cut-through. When that’s not affordable, your only option is to strive for the truly original and distinctive. You need to be bold if you’re going to up-end the status quo.

The CMO at a top fashion retailer welcomed this challenge, stating that “The benefit of having limited resources is that it makes us focus on doing something really well rather than settling for a smorgasbord of average.”

Challenge #3: How can I properly explain the value of new media?

While budget is often the main brake on a brand’s ambitions in paid media, this is much less true in terms of owned and earned. But everyone’s playing the same game, so what do you need to do to win?

As the brand marketing manager at one of the UK’s oldest department stores said, “Getting tenured stakeholders to appreciate the value of new media is a real challenge, as well as the problems this causes when creative teams don’t consider asset usage until its done.”

Content isn’t the only answer, but done brilliantly it has the potential to create disproportionate levels of impact. The brands that win in this field understand exactly their role in society, assert it in ways that hit a consumer's nerve, adapt fluidly to the demands of each channel, and embrace the test and learn approach.

Challenge #4: How do I justify the budget?

Strategic sacrifices often need to be made. It’s a challenge that affects brands of all sizes, but charities in particular face seemingly ever-increasing pressure to justify expenditure.

A strategic communications manager at a global not-for-profit agreed: “There’s a compelling need to justify every cent in the charity sector, and a real difficulty in securing buy-in at senior level for a wide range of metrics.”

Try to be everywhere and there is a risk of being seen nowhere. Successful members of the £500k Campaign Club focus on just two or three media platforms using tightly integrated campaigns to hammer home their message.

Simply following the numbers may lead you down a competitive blind alley. This is particularly true when resources are scarce. You need to think laterally, balancing the ‘science’ of media with the ‘art’ of creativity.

Challenge #5: We’re constantly cycling between agencies. What should we do?

It’s no surprise that, as brands constantly strive to outpace and outperform the competition, many can fall into the trap working with a revolving door for different agencies.

While new ideas are great, this change naturally leads to a short-term focus. The ex-head of marketing at a global alcohol brand commented on this phenomenon, saying, “One-year cycles are dangerous and lead to activation plans rather than brand building.”

The solution is to establish longer-term partnerships. Having too many agencies on board slows things down and dissipates budgets. For the £500K Campaign Club, a single smaller agency that’s passionate about the business or audience challenge and keen to jigsaw with existing in-house capabilities is often the best choice.

With the right agency partner brands can certainly rise to these challenges and have never had better opportunities to do so. But to succeed, members of the £500K Campaign Club must share two key attributes: they need to identify exactly which battles they want to fight, and they must work hard on organising their efforts to get the maximum bang from every available buck.

Jamie Matthews, Founder and CEO at Initials.

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