Abandoning the Marketing Campaign: How to Think Long Term

The marketing campaign has been dying a slow death for awhile now. A reliable and some might say necessary mindset in its heyday, the marketing campaign is now nothing more than a remnant of outdated thinking. Yes, this is a little harsh, but in many ways the classic marketing campaign is the antithesis of the modern marketing principles that promote audience engagement and focus on long-term business strategy.

According to Investopedia, “a marketing campaign is a coordinated series of steps that can include promotion of a product through different mediums (television, radio, print, online) using a variety of different types of advertisements.”

Notice how, in this definition, there is no mention of an audience and it is instead focused on tactics and promotion than on a positive outcome. In fact, as an Inc. article adeptly points out, the language associated with marketing campaigns–campaign, blast, target, etc.–evoke ideas of warfare and battles. Marketing campaigns are fighting a battle, I assume, for an audience’s attention and, ultimately, a sale. As marketers we’ve simply evolved past the need to wage war on our audience to achieve our goals.

While standalone campaigns are certainly on their last leg, there is a modern framework that marketing efforts can function within. This framework is the marketer-audience conversation.

Shifting from Campaigns to Conversations

While marketing campaigns have a ‘one and done’ mentality, marketing conversations require sustained attention and long-term future focus. Moving forward with the analogy of warfare, conversations are to marketing what diplomacy is to foreign affairs. Rather than blasting your audience with advertisements, you’re engaging in relationship building that is nurtured toward a mutually agreeable end goal. By focusing on conversations, you’re making the conscious choice to focus on sustained, strategic interactions with your target audience.

See how this differs from a one-way hammering of advertisements?

The key difference here is that instead of shouting our marketing messages at passive viewers or readers, we are actively engaging in a two-way exchange between two active parties.

While every aspect of your marketing should be conversational, platforms such as social media are allowing brands to quite literally make conversation with the audiences in real time. It is advancements such as these that are driving the shift towards conversation.

The Death of the Marketing Campaign: Why It’s Happening & How to Adjust

It’s safe to say that the primary reason we’re shifting toward conversations and away from campaigns is because the shift is finally possible. For much of marketing’s history, reaching people in mass was essentially the only option. The main methods of communicating with audiences were through television and print, both of which were controlled by external forces and required brands to adapt their messages to fit small spaces and reach large audiences.

The disconnect that exists today is a result of apprehension towards adopting these new methods. Even though the ability to reach audiences more individually, and, therefore, more effectively, is becoming more accessible every day, marketers have yet to rid themselves of this campaign mentality.

The fact remains, though, that digital spaces such as social media and email don’t just encourage personalization, they were built for it. By allowing marketers to easily interact with and respond to individuals that fit within their ideal audience base, conversations are ripe for the taking on digital.

Accordingly, the two most influential reasons that campaigns will become obsolete are their inability to accommodate personalization and their lack of scalability across various digital platforms.

Starting Conversations With Your Audience

Sure, starting aimless conversations might be easy. How do you start conversations with the right people on the right topics? How do you sustain these conversations over time and throughout the buyers’ journey? Read on to find out.

  • Find (and emphasize) your human side. In other words, learn how to connect with your audience. We all know that person whose tendency to focus on themselves makes a friendship difficult. Don’t be that person—connect, empathize, meet your audience members where they are, and make their lives better.
  • Build a team of marketers that care more about serving customers than sales or revenue. This sounds a little extreme, I know. Obviously, revenue still matters and should be tied to marketing, but the actual specialists creating strategy and assets should be more concerned with speaking to your audience in a way that benefits them.
  • Adopt technology that makes personalization accessible. Climbing up the personalized marketing maturity curve isn’t a process that will happen overnight. Investing in technologies that support this effort can speed up the process, though. For example, marketing automation allows you to craft tailored messaging in a scalable way.
  • Practice active listening – Social listening tools can help here as they allow you to get an idea of where on the Internet people are talking about your brand and what they have to say about it. You can do this without even investing in tools if you make a point to monitor your comments, reviews, and social mentions while measuring the performance of everything you do in terms of audience engagement.
  • Practice active responsiveness – Building off of the above point, don’t just listen to what your audience has to say (it isn’t enough) but go the extra mile of acting on it. Respond to their emails, complaints, reviews, etc. Additionally, take what your audience has to say and incorporate it into your marketing strategy, especially when it comes to content and social.
  • Take guessing out of the equation and focus on data to understand how you’re being perceived/received by your audience. Recent Forrester research found that only 27% of consumers reporting having ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ experiences with brands in 2015, but 75% of brands thought their consumers had ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ experiences with them. Suffice it to say that what you think your audience feels about you and what they actually feel are likely very different. Do your research and analyze your engagement data to conclusively find where you stand in your audience’s eyes.
  • Think long term. This concept is, of course, the basis of this entire article. Where marketing campaigns were concerned with the success of that single campaign—and maybe the sales of whatever service or product they were promoting—current marketing efforts should be tied to long-term business goals. If you connect all of the above suggestions, though, you will effectively be thinking long term and breaking away from the campaign mindset.


If your marketing team is still stuck in the marketing campaign past, take some comfort in knowing that you’re far from alone in this fact. Just as the marketing campaign is dying a slow death, though, so too will the organizations that rely on this outdated mindset. If you value your relationships with your audience, starting conversations instead of blasting messages will be the natural best choice. When it comes to the evolution of marketing, it truly will be survival of the fittest. As marketing moves ever more quickly into the future, now is the time to choose whether you’ll be leading the pack or left behind with the dinosaurs.


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Do you want to learn about the marketing technology advances that will help you have better, more successful conversations with your audience. Check out our blog The Marketing Technology Landscape: Where Will We Be in 2020?  In the meantime, let us know what you think of this post in the comments.

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