Time for feedback on last month’s APSOTW assignment, As a quick reminder, this was the brief:
This is an exercise in the often overlooked art of defining the problem to be solved and therefore the role for communications. It's a simple challenge we're setting:
Imagine you are at your desk and your phone rings.
It's the new CMO of Kiehl's, a wildly successful brand of stripped down cosmetics. Retail stores around the world. Acquired in 2000 by L'Oreal.
Success has been built through great word of mouth and their habit of giving free samples for you to use or pass along to friends and family.
There has been little, if any, 'traditional' paid advertising.
But sales have slowed. The CMO believes it's time to invest in marketing communication. He wants your agency to tell them - and the management team - if you believe they should invest in marketing communication and why.
You have no more than 10 minutes on a conference call to make your case. Your answer to this question will determine whether conversations continue. They are talking to 12 more agencies. What would you say?
The assignment is to share your talking points/argument in no more than a one page document. We will be looking for clarity and conviction; interestingness and rigor.
- Follow the brief. A lot of responses either ignored the question or had the Pavlovian response of ad people to decide that the answer was an ad and so jumped straight into campaign strategy. That wasn’t the question and we need to break this muscle memory. This challenge was about defining the business case (if there is one) for marketing comms (in their broadest sense)
- Frame the problem the brand faces. You were told “sales have slowed”. A good planner would work really hard to diagnose why and address that. As Andrew put it in his judging notes, “brands in trouble have usually forgotten what made them great, or failed to keep that relevant to a culture that relentlessly moves forward. Not everyone made their argument specific to Kiehl’s.” You have to define the problem to stand any chance of solving it.
- Watch the generalizations. Lots of you talked about fame and awareness without really saying why it would help the business. You need to look more at changing real behavior and removing the reasons not to buy.
- Understand the audience. The brief made it pretty clear this was a skeptical audience about comms investment. The best responses would be explicit about the opportunities investing in marketing comms could create, the difference it might make and some sense of what payback could be. Better still, you might also have suggested running an experiment at a low investment level to see what could be done for Kiehl’s.
- Be interesting. Too many entries just showed the client they’d done some research. There was no leap. And no one was brave enough to say, “we don’t think you should invest in comms. Instead, you should xxx.” The objective of this exercise was not to show how clever you are or how much research you’ve done or even that you think you have the answer. The objective was to get another meeting.
- Keep it simple. Too many entries lost us because they were trying to be too clever. As Rob said about one paper: “I would remind people of something my father – a barrister, so not exactly a stupid man – used to say. “If you have to prove how intelligent you are, you’re not very intelligent.” The best bits of planning are like the best bits of communication: simple thoughts, interestingly expressed.
Anyway, thanks to all those who took part and thank you to the judges for their time and clarity and usefulness of feedback.
We did decide there was a winner – Lizbeth Pal, well done. It felt the most credible articulation of the business problem and how comms could address it. There will be something on its way to you!