Know Your Business Objectives

Are you searching for the next viral campaigns that will generate millions of users? Are you trying to produce the latest “Subservient Chicken” type viral campaign? Are you pulling out all the stops to produce incredible word of mouth and fantastic press? If so, consider the following: some marketers have told me they built viral campaigns that hit a real nerve with their target markets. The campaigns were seeded among core fans, then drove engagement with millions of users. Instead of receiving the kudos they expected, however, their bosses told them the campaigns were a bust.

What went wrong?

Before we assess that, consider CareerBuilder.com‘s recent viral promotion.

To extend the reach of its two high-priced TV spots on this year’s Super Bowl, CareerBuilder created an online Monk-e-Mail campaign and supplemented it with increased search word buys for terms related to the ads. According to Richard Castellini, consumer marketing vice president, “Our goal was to maximize visibility for CareerBuilder and engage job seekers in the brand. To this end, we wanted to maximize traffic to the site and in turn deliver more value to the employers who post there.”

Unlike my colleagues’ bosses, Castellini feels his campaign was extremely successful. After all, he hit his branding targets. The site attracted over 2 million unique visitors between the Super Bowl and the following Monday evening and over 5 million Monk-e-Mail messages have been sent and viewed to date.

The difference between success and failure is a function of understanding targeted business objectives and achieving relevant success metrics. (Hint: corporate business targets may differ from your traditional marketing objectives.)

Organic’s The Mudds, a viral campaign for the Jeep Commander, illustrates this point. Based on DaimlerChrysler’s previous online experience, the campaign tracked unique visitors, hand-raisers, and price requests. The promotion included Webisodes and a sweepstakes for four geocached Jeeps to engage potential customers in a way that achieved the campaign’s goals.

In a recent talk at New York University’s master’s program in direct and interactive marketing, Organic CEO and fellow ClickZ columnist Mark Kingdon emphasized, “Before you start creating a campaign, you have to determine how you’re going to evaluate its success. These factors can influence its development.”

Marketers must establish goals and how they’ll be measured before starting promotional planning. This can mean the difference between success and failure. To this end, you must do the following:

  • Set business objectives. Know who your stakeholders are and what they think your campaign needs to achieve. Spend time getting buy-in for success metrics at the beginning of the planning process when you can still adjust your campaign. For example, if CareerBuilder had been looking for registrants, it could have added a link to its email communication, like, “Want to stop monkeying around with your career? Click here,” with a link to its job candidate registration page. Note: ensure your campaign business goals are explicitly included in the agency creative brief as well as in marketing targets.

  • Set success metrics. Based on your business’s goals, consider what the most important results to measure are. In the Mudds example, DaimlerChrysler identified a set of metrics for evaluating its marketing funnel based on past experience. In CaeerBuilder’s case, the determinant of branding success may have used brand recall based on survey research rather than unique visitors.

Beyond this, each campaign’s impact must be maximized, especially in this “what have you done for me lately” environment. Examine every aspect of a marketing promotion to ensure it’s maximizing return and positions your business to grow. To that end, check the following:

  • Does the promotion or microsite highlight and integrate my brand without impinging on its viral quality? Among components to consider are the microsite’s colors, the brand logo’s placement and integration, and the navigation to get to the main site.

  • Does all email communication maximize branding impact (great promotions and microsites don’t often maximize the impact of related email communications)? This branding includes getting the brand name into the subject or sender line, adding a link to the brand’s main site, and giving users a way to opt in for further communication regarding the brand. When executing a viral campaign, this means integrating distinctive brand attributes into the promotion.
  • Does the campaign’s nature enable me to issue a press release that attracts attention to help extend the campaign’s and branding’s impact? Can the campaign be extended by having it collect data or comments suitable for generating press coverage?

Clever creative and cutting-edge technology can only get you so far. If you aren’t sure where you’re trying to go, you can be pretty sure you’ll never get there. You can create the most numerically successful viral campaign in history, but if it doesn’t achieve your business objectives, it’s only a missed opportunity.

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