A cheap campaign
Rick Santorum has just placed second, by 8 votes, in the Iowa Republican Party caucuses. He was outspent by number one, Mitt Romney, by literally millions of dollars.
I have seen this same scenario countless times. In the modern era, it’s often due to viral marketing successes. In the older days, it was word of mouth or free news coverage that did the trick. The question is, does one have to spend to make noise? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that money more often than not does buy visibility. Sure, you might succeed with less, but your chances are far slimmer. But is there a sure fire way of getting votes, raising money, selling products, raising awareness or otherwise getting your message out to millions without spending as much?
I do believe in marksmanship. Some people just aim better than others using the same weapon. Put two people in the same Formula One car and one might win the championship while the other will crash at the first curve. The point is that expertise matters if you are trying to attempt, and I do insist on the word ‘attempt’, to make noise with few funds. You need someone who has grown to understand targets and their expectations. You need someone who understands the concepts of interference and competition. You need someone who can be incisive while being clear.
In the real world, even expertise can have its limitations though. Today’s information environment is subject to endless gusts of change. Trends that used to take months now take minutes, even seconds, to go around the world. My solution has therefore always been to speak to lower, more ingrained, human values. If you can get past people’s trending tendencies and speak to their fundamental needs and expectations, you can more likely succeed. The problem with today’s communicators is that they have forgotten how to even identify these deep human emotions, never mind speak to them. Maslow’s pyramid, and other attempts at dissecting human expectations, are there for a reason. They are, despite technological advances, a reflection of genetically hardwired drives. They are also a reflection of well imprinted cultural and educational teachings. Speak to those and you will have a greater chance of ‘getting in’ with people.
Too many times have I attended brainstorming sessions where communicators have opted for a campaign not because it sent the right message but because the slogan sounded good. Ask a focus group to select a slogan and of course they will choose the one that sounds sweeter. But take the time to understand if that slogan does, or does not, speak to deeper values and you will soon discover a major gap. The same is true of images, video and any other form of message delivery. The artistic quality of a video is not what ultimately sells, the message does. This may sound obvious, but to many it is not, hence the incredibly large number of failed campaigns.
In short, can we make noise on a dime? We can rarely do so but chances are greater with higher expertise and focus.