Iterative Marketing Podcast Episode 15: What’s So Wrong About A Campaign

Sick of riding the campaign roller coaster? Steve and Elizabeth discuss how marketing programs help us ditch the campaign pitch cycle and remain nimble and responsive to market engagement.

Episode Show Notes

Introduction to the Podcast

(0:00 – 2:22) Introduction to the Iterative Marketing Podcast: Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where, each week, hosts Steve Robinson and Elizabeth Earin provide marketers and entrepreneurs with actionable ideas, techniques, and examples to improve marketing results. The topic of this episode is the drawbacks of campaigns and why they should be replaced with programs. We delve into the differences between the two and the advantages of embracing a program-oriented approach.

The resources discussed on the show can be found at, which includes a blog and a LinkedIn group for community interaction.

The Difference Between Campaings and Programs

(2:22 – 5:22) Marketing Campaign vs. Marketing Program: A traditional campaign is a big idea constrained to a specific time period, usually with a defined start and end date, focusing on a theme or idea with attached strategies and tactics. On the other hand, a marketing program is an intersection of a defined objective for a defined audience without a definitive end date, making it an ongoing and adaptable strategy. Programs offer more flexibility, allowing for continuous improvement and better targeting of specific personas, industries, or target accounts, ultimately leading to more effective results.

The Problems with Campaigns

(5:22 – 7:59)  Time Boxing: Campaigns can be wasteful due to their time-boxed nature, with fixed start and end dates often based on gut feelings or budgets. This rigidity can lead to ineffective media runs, annoyed audiences, or missed opportunities. Programs, on the other hand, allow for flexible and adaptive marketing strategies, making better use of resources and enabling continuous improvement based on real-time data. While creative elements may still need to be updated within a program, the overall structure remains consistent and effective throughout its indefinite duration.

(7:59 – 10:09) Repeatability and Growth: Campaigns often lack repeatability, as they encourage constant reinvention and novelty, making it difficult to refine and grow marketing strategies. Programs, in contrast, focus on maintaining core strategies and incremental improvements, breaking the cycle of always seeking new, flashy ideas. This approach enables both corporate marketers and agencies to prioritize serving their audience effectively, using metrics to guide decisions and reducing reliance on the internal pitch cycle.

(10:09 – 11:42) Learning and Adaptation: Campaigns hinder the ability to apply lessons learned and establish performance benchmarks, as they often involve entirely new ideas and strategies with each iteration. Programs, on the other hand, enable marketers to build knowledge over time, identify effective messaging, and optimize media channels. By limiting changes and focusing on incremental improvements, programs align with the core tenets of iterative marketing, allowing for better understanding and application of insights to achieve more favorable outcomes.

(11:42 – 13:04) Responsiveness and Flexibility: Campaigns often lack responsiveness due to their fixed budgets and long-term planning, leaving little room for adaptability or adjustments based on changes in the market or new insights. Programs, on the other hand, offer greater flexibility and nimbleness, with built-in plans for updates and improvements. This adaptability allows for more efficient marketing strategies that can respond to shifts in the marketplace and maintain effectiveness over time.

(13:04 – 14:39) Incentives and Measurement: Campaigns can disincentivize marketers from measuring their effectiveness, as doing so could potentially erode confidence in the marketing efforts. On the other hand, programs encourage measurement and improvement by focusing on achieving objectives and refining strategies to reach those goals. Reporting on a program’s success not only includes the accomplishment of set objectives but also highlights the iterative improvements made, incentivizing marketers to continuously measure, adapt, and enhance their marketing strategies.

(14:39 – 16:19) Flexible Budget Allocation: Unlike campaigns, marketing programs offer the flexibility to adapt and extend as needed, which is beneficial for budget allocation. Programs are designed with built-in room for growth and adaptation, allowing marketers to continue with effective strategies for as long as they deliver results. With a track record of success, marketers can confidently request additional budgets for a program, showcasing its potential to generate more leads or revenue. This flexibility ultimately maximizes the potential of marketing programs and ensures resources are allocated efficiently.

(16:19 – 17:34) Consistency in Demand Generation: Campaigns can cause inconsistent peaks and valleys in demand generation, which may pose challenges for businesses to respond effectively to sales fluctuations. Programs, on the other hand, offer the advantage of generating demand more consistently by incrementally improving over time. This consistency allows businesses to manage their resources better and fulfill the demand without the stress of sudden spikes or drops. Adopting a program approach can ultimately result in smoother business operations and more effective resource allocation.

Charity Outreach

(17:34 – 18:21) Charity Break: Life Navigators

When Campaigns or Hybrid Approaches Are Appropriate

(18:21 – 21:23) Turning One-Time Events into Repeatable Marketing Programs: There are times when a campaign or a hybrid approach is more suitable. One-off events or opportunities, such as sponsorships or trade shows, may initially seem to require a campaign. However, if these events are annual or recurring, they can be converted into repeatable programs that allow marketers to build on their experiences and learnings from one event to the next. In such cases, while the creative aspects may need to change to adapt to the audience, the overall structure, strategies, and tactics can remain consistent and be incrementally improved over time.

(21:23 – 23:07) Adapting to Seasonality and Recurring Events: When it comes to seasonal or recurring events, a program-centric approach can still be utilized effectively. For example, holiday promotions, open enrollment periods for health insurance, or lawn care services that follow a predictable seasonal pattern can all be adapted into repeatable programs. While the creative aspects may need to be adjusted to stay relevant, the overall structure, strategies, and tactics can remain consistent. Over time, marketers can hone in on the content that resonates best with their audience, as well as the most effective channels and methods for delivering that content.

(23:07 – 25:13) Adapting to Product Launches with a Hybrid Approach: In situations where a new product or service is being launched, a hybrid approach between campaigns and programs may be necessary. If an existing program is already targeting the relevant audience and driving sales of similar products or services, marketers can adjust the creative and increase the budget to accommodate the new product launch. However, if no existing program is in place, setting up a new program and starting with a larger budget may be required to meet the objectives. In such cases, adopting some elements of a program’s success and applying them to campaign thinking can help maximize the effectiveness of the marketing efforts.

Traditional and Digital Channels in Marketing Programs

(25:13 – 28:31) Leveraging Digital Insights for Traditional Media Campaigns:  Marketers can benefit from using digital channels to gain insights for their traditional media campaigns. Digital can serve as a tool to learn when creative content gets stale and identify the most effective messaging to use across both digital and traditional channels. To maintain a consistent presence in a program, marketers may need to adjust their media buys and opt for less expensive media. Unique calls to action, such as vanity URLs and special phone numbers, can be used to measure the response to traditional media ads, bridging the gap between digital and traditional marketing efforts.

Join Us Next Time

(28:31 – 29:51Conclusion: In this episode, we discussed the limitations of traditional campaigns and the advantages of adopting a program-centric marketing approach. However, we also acknowledged that there are instances when campaigns or hybrid approaches can be appropriate. Join us next week as we explore the See Think Do framework, which can help guide marketers in crafting more effective strategies.

Have a great week and we’ll see you next time. This concludes this week’s episode. For notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to the Brilliant Metrics newsletter.

Iterative Marketing is a part of the Brilliant Metrics organization. If you would like more information on the marketing services provided by the expert team at Brilliant Metrics, reach out today for a free discovery call.

The Iterative Marketing Podcast,  a production of Brilliant Metrics, ran from February 2016 to September 2017. Music by SeaStock Audio.

Learn more about Iterative Marketing and listen to other episodes on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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