Before the Internet appeared and swiftly took over our lives, a planner had to be quite patient. Months would be spent doing research and strategy, followed by the creative work, which would then be released to the public. Anecdotal responses would filter in here and there, and a post-campaign brand awareness study would be designed and put in market. And then, eventually, the planner might know if the strategy worked. Might.
Today, with many campaigns designed to either drive traffic to a website or social media platform and/or include a significant social media engagement component, we can see some forms of consumer response to our messaging immediately, and on a minute-to-minute basis.
Where the planner was once a model of patience, today she must be a paragon of collaboration. Collaborating not only with creative teams, but also with digital strategists and social media community managers. With CRM (customer relationship management) experts and direct marketers. With brand activation companies, e-commerce and app builders. Sometimes even with video game experts. What the planner must know today is wider and more in flux than in 1968, when the UK produced the first planners. And the planner must work well with the tactical teams to ensure that there’s integration of brand messaging across an increasing array of channels.
But two qualities that make for a good planner are constant, no matter what changes in technology have taken place: Intuition and Judgment. The intuition to know what may move audiences, and the judgment to discern the relative importance of different behaviours and responses. “Likes” do not always correlate to purchase. “Conversions” do not necessarily lead to loyalty. So while a planner should be digitally savvy and well-informed about all current consumer trends, he should not be overly seduced by any one technology, and have the ability to always pull back and see the larger social/emotional picture at play.
Likewise, a planner must have the fortitude and confidence to challenge creative work that might be popular with creative teams and even get easily sold to clients, but that may have strayed from the true emotional connections between the public and the brand.
One case in point: Corona’s recent ups and downs. Corona made huge inroads with beer drinkers with the iconic beach campaigns (no voice over or dialogue or music, camera behind the person sitting on a beach lounge somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean, phone rings, he reaches to pick it up but instead throws it into the sea and pops open another Corona). It was the perfect “screw you” to the tedium of office work that we were waiting for, and they were exactly the right brand to deliver that palpable relief to us.
Then, probably over the complaints of planners, they decided to go sophisticated, with a recent campaign called “Mas Fina” that explored themes of meaning and self-actualization. Not dissimilar to the Levis “Go Forth” campaign. Needless to say, the public did not respond with great delight. And now the brand is back, at least for this summer, with a campaign that once again “owns the beach” and the wonderfully appealing state of mind associated with being on the beach.
What today’s technology affords us is quicker and more palpable evidence of what’s working, and what’s not working. But the public, no matter how much they may rant on Twitter or Facebook, cannot necessarily tell you why they do or don’t connect with a campaign or brand. That is still the job of the planner to intuit.