Once Amazing, Twice Coasting: Innovate

Every great idea will only show amazing results once. When our attention is grabbed by a multi faceted, innovative (or often simply “first ever”) marketing campaign like the Old Spice campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa this year, the first inclination of many is to copy it exactly. Businesses see the wild success for the brand, try to find a similar idea or approach, and then are disappointed when they don’t see the same kind of wild success.

Business that are a bit more on the edge and quick on their feet may be able to piggy back briefly on the back of a stunning, viral campaign like Old Spice – the first few parody videos to hit the internet (one from Brigham Young University Harold B Lee Library sticks in the mind) certainly took advantage of the attention bleed off and positive feelings for the campaign to surf the wave of the buzz for their own good. Parodies that waited too long out of the starting gate to launch missed the meme wave, however.

What people say about their being no new ideas may be true, but it’s important to make folks feel like your ideas are new for them to succeed. Too many sequels, too much of a copycat feeling, too slow out of the gate (or sometimes – too quickly out of the gate with poor execution)… it can all lead to a flop of a campaign. So how do you avoid being seen as a copycat brand, or a dud?

If a marketing campaign gets you excited and makes you want to copy it, look beyond your surface reason for wanting to do so. Of course you want the kind of success you’re smelling in a successful campaign for yourself. Count to ten, take a deep breath and really analyze what you are seeing and hearing. Find your emotional touch points within the brand experience. Identify what it is exactly that is resonating with you. Then take a step back.

Recognize that to copy this could only create a stale message. Think of other ways you can get your message across that will create those deep emotional touch points with your brand and leave a lasting tasty aftertaste for those experiencing your campaign. Then look even deeper. What else pulled you in? Was it a technique? Part of the Old spice commercial’s success (beyond the obvious “hot ex athlete in a towel) was the snappy dialogue, but even looking beyond that it was the seamless way the folks behind it filmed the take. It was very fluid and visually pleasing. If they’d done the take any other way the commercial would not have worked.

Compare the techniques and tools you found useful in successful campaigns and look at how you can use them for your own brand, differently. Are you a restaurant? While everyone else is applying to create fun but cheesy badges on Foursquare and Gowalla, and scrambling to give Mayors free stuff in hopes of a fleeting mention online, recognize that the novelty of that has worn off but the tool is still being used. Try instead using the pop up tips function to offer food and wine pairing suggestions, or to let customers know which day of the week your fresh seafood shipment arrives. You can be different and still use the tools others are using.

What ad campaigns have inspired you to think about copying them this year? Did you copy them to mediocre success or innovate using them as inspiration to reach your own better success? What copycat campaigns came along over the last year that you could tell were weak attempts at re-creating an already successful campaign by someone else? What could they have done differently?