No marketer sits down to craft messages that will be lost, forgotten, or worse yet, completely ignored.
Yet in today’s age where information is no longer scarce, and it’s harder than ever to break through, this is precisely what happens to many of us each day.
If we are going to succeed in affecting change, and convincing our prospects that we will improve their lives, we cannot be ignored. Must not be forgotten. Memorability is mission one.
It’s nearly impossible to be memorable if your messages jump all over the map and counting on volume over value won’t do the trick. In their book “Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing” Robert Rose and Carla Johnson explain:
“A study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board in 2012 concluded that there is no linear correlation between the number of interactions with customers and the depth of relationship with that customer. Nevertheless, most marketing strategies center on this metric: the more interactions we have, the more data we glean, then the deeper our relationship must be—and it’s simply not true… In reality, that linear relationship flattens much more quickly than most marketers think.”
For many us, when leads are down and reports are due, ramping up volume and resulting to “spray and pray” is the tactic of choice. Build a bunch of content. Fire off emails. Hope something sticks (and it rarely does).
The cure for this scattershot approach is to begin every effort by first defining a Theme.
What is a Campaign Theme?
A campaign Theme is a promise of improvement that you make to your market, one which all your messages and content will support.
It is a promise that you can own, and one that will set your company apart as unique.
Why is a Theme Important?
The market for attention, like any other market, is bound by the laws of supply and demand.
There is too much content in the world and so demand falls. For you and I, this is problematic.
We must live in our prospects mind as the one organization that is uniquely qualified to solve their problem(s). If they ignore our messages, how can we earn this coveted spot?
In the classic work, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” Al Ries and Jack Trout define a solution to this challenge in Law Five: The law of Focus – the ability to own a word (or in our case a promise) in our prospects’ minds.
FedEx built their brand by owning the word overnight. Crest built it by owning the word cavities.
When the fateful moment arrives when your prospect has a problem that needs solving, what will they remember about you?
As well constructed (and well executed) theme means you are first in their mind.
The Four Key Elements of a Breakthrough Theme
At its essence, a campaign Theme is a top-level message or idea that is:
- For a specific someone.
A great campaign Theme must have a particular person in mind. Not just a persona, but a person. A real human who you believe would care about the promise. By beginning with a real person, you are more likely to create something memorable and human – rather than a Theme stuffed with jargon and focused on you.
With a real person in mind, you can then work to understand that persons thoughts, feelings, pains, aspirations and point of view. A great Theme will be based on their core desires and positioned in pursuit of improvement.
Once you have your promise, it’s time find the market facing words – ones that will stand out, and demand your prospects, stop, click, engage. Being impactful means being bold. It means a willingness to avoid sameness and lameness.
From the impact of your bold promise you’ll earn memorability. The resonance you need to earn the attention, mindshare, and ultimately the nod when it comes time to choose a solution.
The Benefits of a Thematic Planning Approach
The benefits of a thematic planning approach are many; however the ones we routinely see are:
- Calm, Measured Approach
Teams that rely on a Theme have more clarity around their purpose and mission. The whole team understands the change they are trying to make, and the position they are working to own, and always has that Theme as a guiding light.
Websites are sticky when visitors stay long and return often. Brands are sticky when prospects recall them often and rely on them as a source of expertise. A Theme delivers the consistency you need to own a position.
- Category Ownership
Rather than compete with the masses, establishing a Theme allows you to break free from commodization and create a new category – a category where you are the leader versus “another XYZ provider.” Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne define this as Red Ocean vs Blue Ocean. The Red Ocean is where all your competitors play. The commoditized, occupied space. The cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. The Blue Ocean is where you play – an uncontested space that you define based on your Theme.
- Dramatically Improved Marketing Metrics
Since your Theme is built in service of your market (remember element one of the Five Key Elements of a Campaign Theme), you attract the best to you. You become known as one apart, as an expert in a specific space. Engagement rises, and so do key marketing and business metrics.
Five Examples of Breakthrough Themes
Crafting a great Theme is a blend of art and science. The best Themes make explicit promises that can be supported by content, and focus on a promise you can own.
- DomainTools, a cybersecurity company, promises to help companies See Threats Coming.
- FedEx built its early brand based on a clear focus on the Theme Overnight.
- The billion dollar clothing brand Bonobos promises The Perfect Fit
Some of the best Themes go beyond a promise and spark a movement. David Cummings, Co-Founder of marketing automation giant Pardot explains the benefit of being a movement-first company in his essay Product-First or Movement-First:
“Movement-first companies are on a mission greater than themselves. Everything centers around educating the market about this better way to do things… Movement-first companies are all about creating a movement.”
- Hubspot changed an entire marketplace with a focus on Inbound
- Engagio is seeking to change an entire marketplace by evangelizing Account Based Marketing
All of these Themes have a deep resonance which can be supported by compelling content and ultimately owned in the minds of their market.
Putting it Together – Building Your Content Plan to Support Your Theme
Armed with your Theme you can then begin building out your content. Plan on building content to support all elements of the buyer’s journey:
Then work to execute your roll-out in a methodical way: first building your audience, and then nurturing the engaged audience to a close.
For example, DomainTools might start with whitepapers defining the new threats facing companies. They might explore case studies of companies who have intercepted threats and how. Then they might build out product specific content that shows how their solution allows you to See Threats Coming like no one else can.
Armed with this approach, you’ll be far more organized, prepared and impactful than your competitors and have the punch you need to overcome the greatest obstacle you face: the relentless and constant noise overwhelming us all.